Memoirs of a Geisha By Kirk Honeycutt
Bottom line: A respectable film version of best seller that nevertheless misses the novel's subtleties.
While the 1997 best-selling novel "Memoirs of a Geisha" was written by an American, Arthur Golden, he absorbed enough of Japanese culture in his years of travel and study to convey the mysterious world of the geisha as one of subtlety, discretion, ritual and tradition. The movie version, directed by "Chicago's" Rob Marshall and written by Robin Swicord, has, frankly, Americanized the story. By this I mean the filmmakers make characters crasser, ignore nuances within geisha tradition and give characters attitudes and dialogue highly unlikely for Depression-era Japan. The heroine, who in time becomes a legendary geisha, is modeled in the film more after a willful, modern American teen than a young Japanese woman.
"Memoirs" has generated plenty of heat on its way to the screen. The novel reportedly has been translated into 32 languages and the film production criticized for the casting of three leading Chinese actors -- Ziyi Zhang, Michelle Yeoh and Gong Li -- as Japanese. So opening boxoffice grosses will be strong. As an exotic romance set in the lost world of prewar Japan, the film should have sufficient legs to become a hit this holiday season.