Kumiko lives in Tokyo. She is an “office lady,” working a demeaning job for a patronizing boss. She’s an extreme introvert and doesn’t seem to have any hobbies or outside interests other than hunting for treasure to escape her dreary life. Her most recent acquisition, found buried in a cave, is a VHS copy of the movie Fargo where she “discovers” buried treasure. You know – the bag of money that Steve Buscemi buries in the snow? Yeah.
So poor confused Kumiko embroiders herself a treasure map and flies to Minnesota with “I want to go Fargo” as her only English and a stolen company credit card her only money. Do things go well? No they do not.
Rinko Kikuchi is nothing short of fantastic as Kumiko and director David Zellner elevates the somewhat silly premise with beautiful things to look at. But I can’t say I loved this movie. It’s offbeat in a way I want to like, but I was so turned off by Kumiko that I couldn’t really surrender to the movie. Kumiko is stubborn and subservient and child-like and capable of tantrums. You just want to shake her, but no one ever does. I found myself wondering if perhaps she is mentally challenged, and I can only surmise based on her thoughts and actions that she is, but that doesn’t seem to concern the script very much. Instead it just launches her into absurd and dangerous conditions, and best of luck to her – and to us, for sitting through it. Because I most certainly did. There was so much potential that I kept willing it to be just a bit better, to see just a little bit of character development from her, any growth at all. I was willing to take anything.
Instead, any satisfaction I got was not from Kumiko but from a friendly cop (played by the director) who seemed to sense if not feel our frustration, and provided some much-needed laugh-out-loud moments that broke up the beautiful imagery dotted with the annoying Japanese woman.
While I can’t quite embrace it, I am a little fascinated by it, and would love to hear from anyone who saw it. Did you find a way to connect with it? Or did you survive it by delivering constant mental slaps?