Strawberry Shortcakes



Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 69%
IMDb Rating 7 10 708

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Uploaded By: FREEMAN



Masanobu Andô as Kikuchi

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by crossbow0106 8 / 10

Still Comes Shining Through

This story about four young ladies in Tokyo is quietly moving and, at times, difficult to watch. You are almost a voyeur watching these ladies live their lives. It is two hours of well acted drama that surprised me, because I almost expected a Japanese version of "Sex And The City". The fact that these four have their individual existences is reason enough to watch. The city of Tokyo is almost a co-star in this film. Like "Lost In Translation" and other films, you get a direct feel for the rhythm of the city. It is a beautifully shot film. Now the one thing that makes the film difficult to watch: I have the DVD, having missed it when it played in New York in the summer of 2008. The English subtitles are absolutely atrocious, as if the person who did them cannot speak English. Its as if they had an English/Japanese dictionary in front of them and wrote out the words from the script. So, often you have sentences spoken by these ladies that make zero sense. I don't usually comment about these things, but I found it detracted from the enjoyment of watching this film. It prevented me giving it a 9 or 10, thats how bad the subtitles are. Still watch it, though. Even if you do not know Japanese the power of this film comes through.

Reviewed by sitenoise 10 / 10

A smart, beautiful look at the positive, hopeful side of bleak

I let this one sit in queue too long. The title, Strawberry Shortcakes, led me to believe it would be a silly slapstick chick-flick about young women engaged in madcap antics which is second only to adolescent comedies about the sexploits of silly young men on my list of film genres I hate, Asian or otherwise. Turns out, Strawberry Shortcakes is an engaging indie film that takes a rather bleak look at the lives of four (at times I thought there were five, read on) young women who live mostly on the margins of life in contemporary Tokyo.

Toko Iwase is a bulimic, intense, sometimes bitchy, but very true to her art, artist, who makes a living doing illustration and designing book covers. Her on screen, very visceral scenes of binging and purging are frighteningly realistic. Very painful to watch. She masturbates while lying on the bed, and reading the "secret" diary of, her superficial roommate. She also folds her roommate's clothes, fixes her alarm clock, makes sure she gets to work on time, and she takes care of the funeral arrangements when her roommate's pet hamster dies. Her roommate is:

Chihiro. She is a beautiful, perhaps naive, perhaps sheltered office worker who sucks up to her male superiors to the disgust of her female colleagues. She's the type of woman who doesn't have any girl friends. She tries and she hopes, in the face of all things pointing against it to have a meaningful and lasting relationship with some punk loser from her work. She buys herself a pair of shoes and has them gift wrapped for her birthday because no one else is going to honor it. When her boyfriend is too busy to see her on her birthday, she calls some dude, presumably from her past, who does nothing more than deposit his manhood on her face.

Satoko is a kind-hearted, sweet, plain, but very cute, charming and adorable dreamer (sigh) who works as a receptionist at an escort agency named Heaven's Gate. When her boss asks her why she doesn't put herself on the market she says "I am not pretty like the other girls, no one would pick me." Her boss, who turns out to be falling for her responds, "Our customers like all kinds, even ugly girls. You should think about it." Ouch. She eats at a local shop where the noodles suck and the cook and sole proprietor is a young Chinese man. His "Japanese is no good" so she answers the phone for him and takes orders. She ends up working there after her boss at the escort agency treats her to an expensive dinner and makes his feelings for her known, causing her to quit. She's the type who is attracted to, and befriends, other loners such as:

Akiyo sleeps in a coffin at night and works as an escort at Heaven's Gate. She has a suitcase full of cash, saving up for a condo. It has to be fifth story or higher, for when her body fails her but before she's senile. "Anything below five stories and the fall might not kill you." She's in her late twenties and the other girls, in their early twenties, don't like her because all the customers do. She has a certain Lena Olin tough beauty and submits to all kinds of sexual degradation in her job because it nets her more customers and more money, and because her long-time crush on an old college friend remains unrequited. Here's where the mysterious, non-existent fifth woman comes in.

Akiyo wears high heels, her hair down, a lost in space demeanor, and other escort garb to work at Heaven's Gate. When she jumps on her bicycle to meet her old college friend, a self-described late bloomer (i.e., he doesn't have a full time job yet) for beers at a local dive sushi bar, she wears Converse gym shoes, frumpy ripped up blue jeans and t-shirts, puts her hair up and dons a pair of very bookish glasses. She appears very sharp, happy and focused when she is with him. It isn't meant to be ambiguous, or a secret that this is the same woman, as a second screening of the film revealed to me. I just missed it first time through.

There are many, many more subtle and poignant events that make up the complex portraits of these complex women. For me, and I don't think I'm alone in my opinion, Toko is the centerpiece, the rock, the glue that holds this film together. The t-shirt she wears throughout most of the film has the Led Zeppelin lyric "TO BE A ROCK" on the front and "NOT TO ROLL" on the back. Turns out she is the artist/writer of a very popular manga, of nearly the same name, that this film is based upon. She is not an actress but her presence gave this film a realism I don't think it would have had without her. Strawberry Shortcakes is not an accurate portrayal of all women in contemporary Tokyo, not even a majority, but I think Toko, real name Kiriko Nananan who writes under the pseudonym Toko Iwase, put her heart and soul into painting a wonderfully authentic portrait of a segment of that population.

Having said all that about a picture I clearly enjoyed, the director's signature is all over this film as well. It's very episodic, sometimes unsatisfying in nature; many scenes are captured in an almost documentary fashion; I think the person who adapted the screenplay put in the stuff about God and Hope in an attempt to give the film a meaning others could talk about (successfully, I think, it just didn't appeal to me); and the ending was too happy and abrupt. I can't wait to watch it again.

Reviewed by jmaruyama 7 / 10

Touching, poignant and memorable look at life in Tokyo...

Four young women deal with sex, hardship, love and career in the big city. Hmmm...sounds awfully familiar to a certain cult HBO series but that's where the similarities end as Yazaki Hitoshi adapts Nananan Kiriko's poignant Japanese comic series "Sweet Cream and Red Strawberries," to the big screen.

Despite the happy sounding title "Strawberry Shortcakes" is not a sweet comedy but rather a candid and sometimes harsh look at life in Tokyo as seen through the eyes of four lonely young women...

Cheerful Satoko (Ikewaki Chizuru) is a receptionist for an Escort Service, "Heaven's Gate". Having survived a particularly rough breakup while still a teenager (she was dating a much older boyfriend), Satoko is resigned to the fact that she may not find true love again. When she's not trying to dodge the advances of her horny boss, she lives a quiet and lonesome life in a tiny apartment. She finds some solace by praying to a odd shaped stone which she thinks has the "face of god" on it.

One of her few friends at work is the classy and attractive Akiyo (Nakamura Yuko) who has a morbid fascination with death (she sleeps in a coffin!) and dreams of a day when she can get out of the Escort business, buy a condo and be in a real relationship. She longs for a former classmate who only sees her as a close friend and nothing more.

Then there is perky "OL" -Office Lady- Chihiro(Nakagoshi Noriko) who is in a one-sided relationship with a fellow co-worker but holds out hope that she can mean more to him than just a casual fling.

Her roommate is the brooding Toko (Iwase Toko) who gives new meaning to the phrase "starving artist" as she is so emotionally passionate about her work that she engages in dangerous binge/purge behavior.

Their unfolding stories are a fascinating look at human behavior (self-destructive obsessions, faith in divine intervention, undying hope in a better tomorrow and love).

While all four leads bring interesting depth and substance to their characters, it is Iwase Toko (the stage name of "Strawberry Shortcakes" author Nananan) and Nakamura Yuko who are the standouts in their individual roles.

Toko's bouts with bulimia are painful to watch and Iwase's portrayal seems almost too gut-wrenching real.

Nakamura brings a sense of quiet dignity and complexity to her role as Akiyo, a woman who services the sexual fantasies of others yet denies herself true love and happiness. She is willing subject herself to all sorts of humiliation if it will mean that she will be one step closer to her dream. Her duality is further emphasized by her assuming two distinct looks to separate her fantasy world (glamorous, classy) from her real world (no makeup, jeans and glasses).

Yazaki films "Strawberry Shortcakes" almost like a documentary and his stark and blunt portrayals of sex and love remind me of Larry Clark's films such as "Ken Park" and "Kids".

While the ending in particular did seem a bit contrived and some of the drama forced, I found "Strawberry Shortcakes" an interesting film and one which did make me care about these characters and the lives they lead. Life can be a bitch but perhaps surviving those rough spots are the true test of our character, our faith and hope.

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