Skip it: Presented in English and cast with many non-Japanese actors, "Memoirs of a Geisha" is as authentic as cheeseburger teriyaki. But even more problematic is that, in 144 minutes, Marshall hardly makes an effort to contextualize or investigate a phenomenon in which women insist they are not prostitutes yet auction off their virginity to the highest bidder.
Bottom line: "Memoirs of a Geisha" takes a fascinating Far Eastern subject and turns it into an American tale of female subordination, senseless competition and sake-swilling divas. It tries to assert that women have no choice but to submit to servitude and objectification--yet never analyzes why they are so thrilled to be selected as geishas-in-training. (They receive little in return and beauty appears to be the only prerequisite.) Revealing nothing about the skill, precision and discipline required of a geisha, these can only be considered "memoirs" for those who would be interested in a chapter in a girl's diary called "My 5-second tutorial on the proper bow."
Bonus: A brief glimpse at geisha trash-talking: "Stay out of my room. Your fingers smell!" Snap!
'Memoirs of a Geisha'
Directed by Rob Marshall; screenplay by Robin Swicord, based on the book by Arthur Golden; cinematography by Dion Beebe; production design by John Myhre; music by John Williams; edited by Pietro Scalia; produced by Lucy Fisher, Steven Spielberg and Douglas Wick. A Dreamworks and Columbia Pictures release; opens Friday. Running time: 2:25. MPAA rating: PG-13 (for mature subject matter and some sexual content).
Sayuri - Ziyi Zhang
The Chairman - Ken Watanabe
Mameha - Michelle Yeoh
Hatsumomo - Gong Li
Nobu - Koji Yakusho
Pumpkin - Youki Kudoh
Mother - Kaori Momoi