Okay, my biggest grip about this move: just about all of the actors are Chinese! Are there no talented actors/actresses in Japan that could have been cast as geisha?? Of course not, obviously by this movie.
The movie takes place in Japan (actually mostly filmed in California). Everybody spoke English in the movie. Although, to add a sense of “real Japan,” random characters at seemingly random and non-important times would blurt out something in Japanese for no reason. Without any subtitles, though, this is lost on the American audience because sometimes they would say something important. For example, Sayuri calls Mameha throughout the movie “onee-chan” (sister). It’s important in the storyline development to realize that Sayuri is calling Mameha sister but unless you’re familiar with Japanese, you have no clue what Sayuri’s calling her. At another time Mother tells Chiyo that it’s cold in her room, “Close the window, hayaku hayaku (hurry up)!” In neither of these two examples does throwing in Japanese add anything. Oh, and nearly everybody speaks with a very thick Chinese accent, their Japanese, too, was with an accent.
This story was originally a book of the same title written by Arthur Golden. If you’ve read the book, you’re going to be sorely disappointed at the Hollywood translation; if you haven’t read the book, you’re going to be lost. The story is told so quickly and without any details as to why certain things are important to the geisha that you don’t have a reason to connect with any of the characters or their problems. In the theater, I heard many people laugh throughout the movie at unfunny moments. Entirely too much of the story from the book was glossed over and the bits and pieces that were used for the movie were entirely bland.
The movie was pretty to look at, nothing even close to “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” or “House of Flying Daggers” or “Hero.” This movie is what you get when you take an American director and tell him to make something “Asian-like:” all wrong.
The actors are hamstrung from the very beginning by the Westernized material — everyone speaks English at all times — and by the bland direction from Rob Marshall.
…the world of the film is so narrow that pre-occupation Japan looks like a feudal Disneyland, where everybody knew their place and the cherry blossoms were always falling…”
In essence Chicago comes closer to capturing that life of artists and performance; Memoirs is just whoring for a little prestige known as the Oscars.
An Eastern movie made to resemble the most unchallenging Western ideal of what the East is.