The Coen Bros. really do need to take it easy on the poetic licensing.
Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) is a young, but shy office worker living in Japan, who also just so happens to have a love/obsession with the 1996 Coen Brother’s flick, Fargo. She’s watched it so many times, that even her video-tape is starting to rip open. But why exactly is Kumiko so in love with this movie? Is it because she’s a huge fan of the Coen Brother’s quirky writing-style? Or does she have a thing for North Dakota accents? Actually, it’s neither; Kumiko believes that the movie holds the map to buried-treasure that Steve Buscemi hides underneath a whole bunch of snow at the end. Though this treasure does not exist, Kumiko doesn’t believe it and decides to save up all of her money so that she can travel to the States and find her buried-treasure, all for herself, once and for all. However, in order to do so, she’ll have to get rid of all those in her life in Japan; like, for instance, her family, her job, and most importantly, her pet rabbit.
Believe it or not, somebody was actually able to get a movie funded where the main character believed that Fargo was a real-life account, rather than a fully-fictionalized narrative feature. So right then and there, I have to give the Zellner Bros. some credit for finding some ways to get the money they needed to tell this story, have it get filmed, and then, make sure it was seen for a rather large audience. Because honestly, odd movies like these are hardly made nowadays, especially ones that feature an international cast and are filmed in two separate countries.
But sometimes, none of that matters if you’re final product isn’t all that great to begin with. Because one of the problems with Kumiko, is that it feels like the Zellner Bros. were only concerned with being able to get the right amount of funding for this piece, rather than actually worrying about the piece itself. To say that the movie takes its good old time is an understatement; Kumiko is a very slow, meandering movie where we only get to the United States with hardly an half-hour left to go.
Now, that’s not me being angry and stating that the movie should have had more action going on it, or should have been quicker; in fact, it’s very far from the truth. I appreciate slower movies that take their times to build characters, their situations, and just who exactly they are. Sadly, the problem with Kumiko feels as if it doesn’t really have much attention to give to its characters, but instead, just relies on odd quirks to carry itself along.
And the one who suffers the most for it is Rinko Kikuchi herself, who is basically playing another version of her character from Babel, someone who is already a mute as is.
Though Kumiko has few shadings to whom she is, the reason as to why she’s so foolish and naive is never made clear. Some of this would have helped to make her adventure all the more sympathetic and understandable, especially considering what she goes through beforehand already puts her through some emotional turmoil. Still, though, Kikuchi does what she can with this role, where it seems like she’s constantly trying her hardest to sink deeper and deeper into this character, but more often than not, it doesn’t seem to be fully paying off.
But I don’t want to make it all seem so terrible, as the movie does have some general positive things to say for itself. For one, it’s shot beautifully; jumping from the hustle and bustle of Japan, all the way to the snowy landscape of North Dakota probably couldn’t have been easy for any cinematographer to work out, but Sean Porter finds a way to make it so. The Zellner’s really do use these certain shots to their advantage, as it shows that there’s more of a world for Kumiko to travel out and around to.
Even if, you know, the travel itself may take forever to get to and may not even be all that interesting to begin with.
Though I often don’t like to compare two movies to one another in the same review, I can’t help myself with this one and one that came out around last month or so: Slow West. Though that movie had a more straight-forward premise, the director found different ways to tell it and, in all honesty, made it feel a lot slower (pardon the pun) and thinner than it needed to be. But with Kumiko, it’s the exact opposite; there’s actually plenty of promise with this plot-line, considering that it isn’t so cut-and-dry, but the directors here do the same thing. Make the pace a whole lot slower, and try to find ways to distract audiences from the fact that there’s not much of a story to begin with.
The problem with both of these movies is that they feel the need to meander as much as they possibly can, just so that the wheels can turn a whole lot more. It was less manipulative in Slow West than it is here, however, both movies signify what it’s like when you’re trying to mess with your audiences, but at the same time, not fooling them enough to have them see what it is that you’re fully up to. Maybe I make these directors sound a whole lot more vindictive and evil than they actually are, but it’s just something that I’ve caught one too many times with these kinds of movies and honestly, I don’t appreciate.
God, why am I so grumpy?
Consensus: The promising premise aside, Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter has a poor-pace that makes it feel like it’s going nowhere, until it finally gets to its end and feels like a bit of a drag all the same.
5 / 10