Outback Ennui: Despite Toni Collette, Japanese Story Is Crushingly Dull

By Rebello, Stephen | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), February 3, 2004 | Go to article overview

Outback Ennui: Despite Toni Collette, Japanese Story Is Crushingly Dull


Rebello, Stephen, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


Japanese Story * Written by Alison Tilson * Directed by Sue Brooks * Starring Toni Collette * Samuel Goldwyn Films

Any big-screen love story worth its weight in schmaltz requires not only two great romancers but also a great wedge that drives the lovers apart and keeps the audience sniffling. Think what a number the Civil War and interpersonal neuroses do on Scarlett and Rhett in Gone With the Wind, just as homophobia does on the erotic trio in Sunday Bloody Sunday and racism on the housewife and the gardener in Far From Heaven. Lock in the right characters and plot complications, and a celluloid love saga can spell exquisite agony for an audience.

Without them, as in the case of Japanese Story, a celluloid love story can merely spell agony. The movie, directed by out filmmaker Sue Brooks from a script by Alison Tilson, offers a simple setup: A geologist (Toni Collette) gets sent by her business partner to escort a Japanese corporate executive (Gotaro Tsunashima) to inspect Australian mines in hopes he'll invest in their company's software program.

In classic East-meets-West flick fashion, the geologist and the businessman grate on each other from the get-go. She's as assertive and capable as he is petulant and out of his element. The first stretch of the movie gears us up for a postmodern African Queen (or at least Two Mules for Sister Sara) with the gender stereotypes upended.

But then nothing happens. Nothing. We watch Collette drive endlessly through eerily vast Australian vistas at which Tsunashima does little more than stare dully, arousing himself with an occasional pseudoprofundity about Australia being vast and unpopulated while Japan is tiny and teeming. …

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