Love hurts. And then you suffer.
Zack Davisson | Seattle, WA, USA | 01/15/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Sometimes you just fall in love with someone, even though you know they are no good. Against the advice of friends and family, and even common sense, you just tumble head-over-heels for the biggest jerk in the room. You know that the smartest move would be to leave, but some how...you just can't help it.
"Happily Ever After" (Japanese title "Jigyaku no Uta" or "Song of the Masochist") is a rather extreme example of this kind of love. Sachie (played by the adorable Nakatani Miki from Train Man) is the sweetest, most patient girl you will ever meet. She is the kind of girl you can take home to mother, who can cook a meal and clean a house and warm a bed with a smile and a song. Her man, Isao (played by the amazing Abe Hiroshi, who should be a familiar face to any Japanese film fan) is just a lout. He is mean to Sachie, doesn't work and takes her money, and flips over the table every time she sets down a delicious homemade dinner in front of him. He offers nothing to the relationship, and just feeds off of her like a maggot. Their relationship is clearly the perfect recipe for a wacky comedy.
A live-action adaptation from the 1996 manga of the same name, "Happily Ever After" is a very funny and touching film. The early scenes with Sachie and Isao had me cracking up, especially with the table flipping scenes. This action, called "chabudai gaeshi" in Japanese, is a typical movie trope that indicates an old-fashioned, chauvinistic man; but here it is taken to extremes. Abe Hiroshi is an innately charming actor, who pulls off this sort of gruff unlikable character with signature flair. Nakatani Miki was also a perfect choice. She is the kind of princess of sweetness and light that every lonely boy will want to reach through the screen and rescue from this oppressive jerk. She is every girl we ever lost to a guy that didn't deserve her.
Mid-way through the film, however, it takes a darker turn and we begin to learn that there is much more to the apish Isao and the long-suffering Sachie than meets the eye. There are hidden corridors of darkness behind Sachie's bright smile and a shinning prince lurks somewhere buried in Isao. Well...maybe not a prince, but certainly someone better than he first appears.
Like both of these characters, "Happily Ever After" is more than it first appears. What should be a light-hearted comedy gets a little serious, and adds depth to the laughs. This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, seeing as how director Tsutsumi Yukihiko is also the brilliant mind behind 2LDK. He knows how to mix and match genres, and take us by surprise when he wants to, and that is exactly what he does here."
Entertaining and fun for the first half, serious and emotion
Dennis A. Amith (kndy) | California | 06/27/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
""I'm Poor & Miserable... but it's OK, as long as you're here..."
The popular manga "Jigyaku no Uta" (Happily Ever After) created by Yoshiie Gouda was featured in the weekly business leisure magazine "Shukan Houseki" (1985-1990) and has spawned a total of five books and a collection that has sold over 500,000 copies in Japan.
The popular black comedy was taken from the pages of the manga to the big screen in 2007 and was directed by Yukihiko Tsutsumi ("20th Centruy Boys", "Trick: The Movie 2 and popular TV drama series "Black Jack" and "Ikebukuro West Gate Park") with cinematographer Satoru Karasawa and composer Hiroyuki Sawano. And would star the popular singer/actress Miki Nakatani ("Keizoku", "Manatsu no Merry Chrismas" and "Otousan") as the main character Yuki, Hiroshi Abe ("Trick", "HERO", "News no Onna", "Antique" and "At Home Dad") as Isao, her live-in boyfriend and former Yakuza member. Also, starring Toshiyuki Nishida who is well-known in Japan for his fishing comedy films "Tsuribaka Nisshi".
The film focuses on Yukie, as we get to see her difficult life as a teenager and a difficult life as an adult woman. Similar to Yoshiie Gouda's manga series, the story is full of laughter and humor in the beginning but in the second half of the film, the story becomes quite serious.
The first half focuses on Yukie, who is a waitress for a Japanese restaurant. She's tries to make do with her life, trying to make money and live a happy life with her boyfriend Isao. Unfortunately, Isao is a former yakuza member who is unable to find work and has a nasty temper that prevents him from having a stable job.
Isao pretty much spends his time with his thug friends, playing pachinko, taking money from his wife and her employer and getting drunk. Each time he comes home for a meal, certain things quickly tick him off that he is known to toss the table and the food and storm off. He also had his pinky cut off (this is done when a yakuza leaves the yakuza world and in Japan) and in Japan, those without a pinky become an outcast in both the yakuza world and normal society which leads to difficulty in getting a regular job.
Despite being poor and despite how badly her boyfriend treats her, she is content. Her aunt who lives next door can't understand why she wants to be with him and she constantly makes a "tadashi" mark indicating how many times Isao has thrown the table. Yukie's employer is a man who loves her, willing to give her money despite the business not doing that great. But despite professing his love for her (and falls upon deaf ears), Yukie is very much in love with Isao and will do anything for him.
The second half of the film focuses on three stories and two relationships. Yukie's younger life as a teenager and her friendship with Kaoru-chan. The second story about how she met Isao and how they became a couple. And the final story focuses on the present time between the couple who are at a crossroad at their relationship but due to circumstances, how do each of them react to their current situation.
We learn from a short glance from the past of Yukie's young life as she has worked hard as a young teen to make money (she lives with her father) and trying to balance school but things change when Yukie's father is arrested and sentenced to 18-years in prison for a bank robbery. Often ridiculed by her classmates because she is poor and often called ugly by her classmates, she finds a friend in Kaoru-chan, a larger girl who is also from a poor family.
The other story of Yukie focuses on her after her move from Osaka to Tokyo and how her life didn't go as well as she would have liked. In fact, life was much more difficult for the young adult and her life and how things changed the moment she met Isao, who somewhat saves her from her current life which was fully of misery and shows us why she loves him so much.
"Happily Ever After" is definitely an interesting film as it may seem that you are watching two different styles of film. The first half is in essence a dark comedy which will definitely make you laugh and the second half is quite dramatic and may make you cry. In an American sense, it may be unusual to have the first hour and second hour so different from each other but its how the manga was written in Japan and in many ways, it was necessary to understand how a woman is able to bare so much trouble but yet still remain in love. In essence, "Happily Ever After" has a total of four different stories and the film is quite captivating as we watch how everything plays out for it's final fourth story and what remains in the future of Yukie and Isao.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
"Happily Ever After" for the most part is an interesting film that showcases a variety of scenes of Yukie's life. Her younger life tends to feature storms and overcast, her young adult life is depicted in what seems to be during the bubble economy of Japan and the adult life of Yukie and Isao shows the status of their current lifestyle as we see a home that has been patched up. Vibrant colors when Isao is playing at the pachinko parlor and we get some beautiful scenery when we see Yuki and Isao during a normal time of their lives, especially as the two look towards the beach.
As for audio, audio is presented in Dolby Digital and you will hear good panning of audio especially during the time when Isao keeps flipping the tables, the rear surrounds are utilized during those scenes. There are some instances of LFE during the first half but for the most part, the film is front and center channel heavy as the film is more of a dialog-driven film and most action sequences happen during the first hour. The film is presented in Japanese with English subtitles.
"Happily Ever After" contains a few special features such as:
* Original Japanese Trailer - The original Japanese theatrical trailer.
* VIZ Pictures Presents - Trailer for previously released titles from VIZ Pictures.
* J-Culture Tip Sheet - Included inside the case is a 4-page booklet explaining certain scenes from the movie. Such as why Yukie carries a five-yen coin, what a "tadashi" is, why Isao plays a lot of pachinko and why he is missing a pinky and more.
"Happily Ever After" was an entertaining film. Many of the Japanese audience, especially those who were familiar with the original manga series, were quite appreciative of the live film adaption of Yoshiie Gouda's original work.
From an American perspective (but with a lot familiarity of Japanese films, especially the main talent featured with the film), Miki Nakatani and Hiroshi Abe absolutely delivered with their wonderful performance of this complex couple. To see Hiroshi Abe and his transformation and overall look as a former yakuza member was well-done. Right down to his hair which I found quite interesting to see.
I was surprised to see Toshiyuki Nishida (who plays the role of Yukie's father) in the film (his "Tsuribaka Nisshi" films are simply well-loved comedy classics in Japan) and can definitely see many audience members from Japan going to theaters knowing that he's in the film. But everyone plays their part quite well and although, I haven't read the original manga series, I've read a plethora of film reviews from fans who were pleased with the live adaption of "Jigyaku no Uta".
But for me, what I found more interesting is how the film is split-up in to different parts to tell the story of Yukie and Isao.
"Happily Ever After" tries to show us how Yukie and Isao can co-exist in their current relationship when she is the only one giving, and Isao is just not their for her emotionally, financially. Pretty much, he just co-exists by living in the same home and that is it.
Of course, situations change but it was quite interesting to see the film go backwards to the past of establishing the relationship of Yukie and Isao. The other story that focuses on Yukie and her friend during her teenage years is important to the storyline but felt it was a tad bit long and could have been trimmed as the relationship with her best friend, for me, personally did not have to be explored that deeply (nor did the film have to end the way it did).
"Happily Ever After" is another film from VIZ Pictures that really captures the essence of Japan but visually from another perspective. A good combination of dark comedy and drama, "Happily Ever After" is an entertaining film worth checking out!"