Thursday, March 29, 2018

Noriko's Dinner Table (2005)

Noriko and later her little sister Yuka run away from their small town and quiet lives to Tokyo after talking with other teens online. Noriko leaves first and tries to become her online alias Mitsuko. She meets Uena Station 54, also known as Kumiko, who leads her into a dark world of family roleplay services. Yuka follows into the very same thing, leaving her family broken. Their mother Taeko kills herself and their father Tetsuzo goes to Tokyo to find them.

Noriko's Dinner Table is a prequel/sequel to Suicide Club that I feel would be a stronger film on its own. The Suicide Club element is weirdly shoe horned and doesn't really fit with this group's mission. There are no characters shared between the two films and beyond the train scene being inserted into the film two times, it doesn't share much beyond the question "Are you connected to yourself?" This film is a family drama in its heart. If you come to this film with Suicide Club expectations, you will be disappointed. It has very little violence at all and focuses on each member of the family and their journey.

Noriko leaves her home hoping to find bigger and better things than what her father wants for her. Her demeanor is meek and shy even though she has a fire burning inside her. You would think she finds fame or fortune in Tokyo, but she finds the ability to become whoever she wants. With the family roleplay service, she immerses herself in whatever character she plays, eventually leaving her blank and empty when not acting. Yuka is less able to throw her whole self away, but she also wants something else. She's tired of playing the silly, frivolous little sister and also wants more than small town life. Tetsuzo wants to save his girls and is finally faced with the reality that small towns are not exempt from tragedy. His whole reporter career is based on fluff pieces that try to keep out harsh reality. Taeko unfortunately isn't a fully fleshed out character and seems made to further the polt and create emotional turmoil for Tetsuzo.

The family role play business starts out fairly innocuously. Kumiko doesn't prepare Noriko as they go to a man's apartment dressed in rocker fashions. The man berates them, they threaten to leave, and then have a tearful reunion over dinner. I was expecting much worse and it has the potentional of being very exploitative. Kumiko coaches these young women into completely sloughing off their personalities and sense of self where they would gladly play any role no matter what was required. The most chilling scene of the whole film is when Kumiko follows a friend, who is set to play a hated wife, on a job. Kumiko calmly puts on a soothing song while the friend is beaten and then stabbed to death. When the session is over, the man cheerfully gives her bloodstained money with Kumiko expressing no emotion to the whole event. The whole phenomenon is meant to show how far these women will go to get away from their pain and throw themselves into another role.

Noriko's Dinner Table is an interesting film that doesn't quite fit with Suicide Club. It runs fare too long at nearly three hours and could have easily been cut down an hour at least. Much of the film is character voice overs as they bemoan their lives and repeat the same things over and over in sappy poetic terms. The whole first hour is incredibly dull. The pacing overall is incredibly slow and the plot doesn't truly move forward until over half way through. I love the concepts involved, but the pacing and voiceovers get so old after an hour. It's still worth your time if you find any of this intriguing.

My rating: 2/5 fishmuffins

No comments: