White on Rice
Now that Oscar season is over and I no longer have to be bombarded by articles and speculations about which film and actors (a select group nominated by the “powers that be”) will be voted “the best” it was nice to see a film like “White on Rice.” “White on Rice” is a low budget, off the wall, irreverent comedy about a Japanese American family living in American suburbia.
“White on Rice” concerns Hajime (Hiroshi Watanabe), a small time actor who is socially challenged when it comes to finding meaningful employment and relationships. He is a childlike personality recently divorced, approaching his fortieth birthday and going nowhere. He lives with his sister Aiko (Nae), her disapproving husband Tak (Mio Takada) and industrious nephew Bob (Justin Kwong) with whom he shares a room. The film also features the beautiful and charming Lynn Chen (“Saving Face” 2004) as Ramona, Hajime’s “out of his league” dream girl.
Hajime’s misadventures and fantasies provide the bulk of the story as he searches for love and a meaningful life. Watanabe plays the character with just enough humor and charm that I found myself rooting for him even though at times I cringed at the stupidity and insensitivity of some of Hajime’s actions. In addition there is an interesting sub plot concerning Hajime’s buttoned down, straight-laced brother in law, Tak, who, although at odds with Hajime’s lifestyle, similarly seeks more satisfaction from life.
Compared to typical Hollywood fare “White on Rice” is downright subversive featuring two of the most comically outrageous hari kari scenes (one of them accidental) ever put on film. What “White on Rice” lacks in professional polish it compensates for with a game cast that is able to put over this small, nutty story.
“White on Rice” opens on March 12 at Big Cinemas Manhattan, 239 East 59th Street in New York.
The Yellow Ribbon, director Dave Boyle, 2009, Variance Films, 85 minutes