Considering that I was quick to demand this movie in NYC, I am late as hell getting this review up.
White On Rice is the second effort from Japanese-fluent director/actor Dave Boyle. I had seen the title of his first film – Big Dreams, Little Tokyo – in recommended movie lists before but always assumed it was another youth-orientated Japanese flick. My attention was definitely grabbed when I found out that Boyle is an American Mormon fluent in Japanese and filming primarily in Japanese. As a whitey Japanophile, I nearly jumped for freaking joy!
My joy continued right through to the very end of White On Rice. This movie is hilarious, and I mean that in a laugh-a-minute way. Boyle never indulges in sentimentality or clunky melodrama – likely one of the benefits of being an independent.
One man’s search for love after divorce – and near ‘starvation’ – with the support of his adoring sister, Aiko and nephew, Bob. Potential foils to his progress are grumpy brother-in-law Tak and Korean-American smoothy, Tim.
I can’t go any further without giving props to Hiroshi Watanabe’s (Hajime) brilliant performance. He is the movie’s comedic and emotional lynchpin, which is saying a lot considering the talented cast. Hajime stumbles from one mishap to another, but always with a good heart and a smile. Watanabe makes a lonely, 40 year-old divorcée genuinely loveable and I found myself waiting just to see his face on the screen. Boyle commented on the camera’s uncanny fondness for Watanabe despite playing a rather infuriating character:
If an actor less charming and skilled had played him, you wouldn’t want to root for him. (H2N)
American Japanophiles have a lot of particular fun waiting in this film, especially the opening sequence of an F-grade samurai movie dubbed in truly despicable southern accents. “Shut yer hole!” as one villager says to the samurai.
Whether you get to see this on the big screen or pick up the DVD from the website, I can’t recommend this movie enough. I can’t wait to see it again.
Also, James Kyson-Lee’s hair in this film actually does look like a duck’s butt.