Wednesday, May 4, 2011

In Review: Solanin (Live-Action Movie)

This is a manga turned into a live-action film. I don't really trust adaptations like this. There is always something lost along the way. It could be the expressions of the characters. Manga characters are frequently entertaining because of their exaggerated expressions, something which not many Japanese actor/actress can pull out.

But despite all these initial misgivings, I decided to give Solanin a go because I loved the manga version that much and I'm kind of a fan of Miyazaki Aoi.


Meiko, played by Miyazaki Aoi (Nana, Tada Kimi wo Aoshiteru, Eureka) is a young office lady who, unable to bear the mundane reality of a desk job, quits and settles into a year of lazy unemployment. Her spur-of-the-moment decision creates a domino effect as her live-in boyfriend, Taneda, begins to feel that it is now up to him to bear the burden of responsibility. He sees that his part-time job as a graphic designer doesn't pay enough to support both of them and his band, composed of friends from his university days, is far from ready to cut an album. He has a choice to make and it's not easy because taking one route means closing up the other.


Plot-wise, the movie isn't impressive. It's about just-out-of-college kids who are trying to make a living in the world beyond the four walls of the academe. In short, a coming-of-age story. We've had a lot of those, haven't we? Most of all, for a movie that supposed to be, at least partially about young people in a band, there's a blatant lack of music. I understand that the actors of Solanin aren't singers or musicians but NANA, also a movie about rock bands, only had one actress (Nakashima Mika) who is also a singer yet they were able to integrate music into the work. I can't understand why they didn't do this with Solanin. A shame, really. I would have loved to know what rotti sounded like.

Now, having read the manga, I can't help but compare it with the live-action version. And as I expected, many of the entertainment value in the manga was lost on screen. The actors looked the part but lacking in expression. Miyazaki Aoi has absolutely no chemistry with the actor who plays Taneda and this is never more apparent than in that one make-out scene. The whole thing was about as fascinating as watching cow chew grass for forty-five minutes.

Another gripe I have about the movie (and this applies to the manga as well) is the sudden turn it takes halfway through the story. It's so sudden, it can literally make you go, "wtf?" and "was that necessary?" I have a feeling it wasn't but it certainly upped the ante for drama, because what follows next is a whole lot of wallowing and characters being in a rut.

Fortunately, it doesn't last long and the movie actually gets better towards the end as it closes with the highlight scene of the entire film: Miyazaki Aoi singing the title song. She's not a singer, this girl, but she can really act so that when she sings, even though the vocals are not really good, you believe her and the overall performance is powerful.

In conclusion, Solanin doesn't necessarily break barriers. What it does do -- and it does so pretty well -- is capture that time in our lives when we just finished college and were coming to the horrible realization that there are two million other people like us in the world, all with their college degrees and diplomas like we do, and we have absolutely nothing, no talent or skill, that sufficiently delineates us from the rest of the world and gives us the advantage edge-wise. Zero. The first time I learned this, my first reaction was to scream inside my own head for a couple of weeks before making the sudden decision of going to law school, all just to postpone reality for four more years at the most.

Story - 6
Sound - 6
Cinematography - 7
Picture - 7
Special Effects - 5
Acting - 6
Overall - 6.2/10