Today I went with my friend Abby to see “Memoirs of a Geisha,” which I quite liked. Now, before I go on I should note that I am not a big movie critic. I don’t watch a lot of movies, and I also have an excellent ability to suspend my disbelief, so I can get into even movies that other people consider “crappy.” I’m more interested in whether or not I enjoy the story than in really trying to watch the movie in an analytical way.
Anyway, the story is basically the same as the book (by Arthur Golden): Ty Burr, in his review for the Globe, does an excellent job of explicating the plot. I agree with Burr in that the set design is absolutely exquisite, and there are some breathtaking shots.
Burr takes issue with the fact that the actors (who are primarily Chinese and Korean) are not acting in their native languages — they speak accented English throughout the film. He says that it’s at times incomprehensible, but I disagree. I had no trouble understanding anyone’s lines, and I say that with confidence that it’s not just because I knew the basic storyline going in — it’s been quite some time since I’ve read the novel. While it would certainly have been more authentic to subtitle the movie and use Japanese talent, I also think that subtitles immediately narrow your audience in the US, and the goal of the filmmakers was obviously to make a movie that would appeal to a wide range of people.
That being said, there were some scenes where it seemed a shame that the actors weren’t able to express themselves in a more sophisticated way. The characters in this novel are all intelligent people, and some of that was lost.
Anyway, I’d say go see this if you’ve been interested in it. If you don’t think the movie sounds like it would meet your standards, I definitely recommend the book. I’m happy to lend it out as soon as I figure out where my copy is.