Well this looks like a fun one. An American-Japanese comedy. Exactly how many of those exist? Actually, probably a lot, but I’m too lazy to Google search it. Anyway, here’s a surprise, the movie co-stars Josh Hartnett. Of all people, am I right? Where’s this dude been huh?
Well, actually, he’s been around. Once upon a time, he was a 90’s, new millennium heartthrob on his way to stardom. But then… who the hell knows, he sort of just dropped off the face of the Earth. Or so people were saying. Technically, he stepped out of the spotlight. If I were to hazard a guess, for personal reasons. But that’s not to say he gave up acting. He was a major player in the popular TV show PENNY DREADFUL (2014 – 2016), but as far as movies are concerned, he’s mostly stuck to the independent circuit. So if you’ve wanted to keep up with his career, you’d have to know where to look. Suffice it to say, I’ve only seen so much of his work pre or post-Penny Dreadful, but I know he’s a great actor, so anything with his face on it deserves to be recognized.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Shinobu Terajima, whose work I am obviously not familiar with, the aforementioned Josh Hartnett (6 BELOW , BLACK HAWK DOWN , THE FACULTY , and upcoming films INHERIT THE VIPER  and THE LONG HOME ), and Megan Mullally (THE DISASTER ARTIST , HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 2 , BEE MOVIE , and TV show WILL & GRACE [1998 – ongoing]).
Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing is Atsuko Hirayanagi. Hirayanagi’s partner-in-pen is Boris Frumin, known for stuff I’ve never heard of and the upcoming BRIGHTON 4 (2018). Composing the score is Erik Friedlander, who is slated for the upcoming THOROUGHBREDS (2018). The cinematographer is Paula Huidobro, known for TALLULAH (2016). Finally, the editor is Kate Hickey, known for TV show GIRLS (2012 – 2017).
Overall, this looks pretty cute and fun. Yeah, let me at it.
This is my honest opinion of: OH LUCY!
In Tokyo, Japan, Setsuko (Shinobu Terajima) is an office worker who lives a mundane life as an office worker. One day, she gets a phone call from her niece, Mika (Shioli Kutsuna), who wants Setsuko to take her place in taking English lessons. Reluctantly, Setsuko agrees, but finds the class to be fulfilling in ways she wasn’t expecting; developing a crush on her handsome American teacher, John (Josh Hartnett), who gives her an American nickname: Lucy. While she enjoys the lesson enough, and attempts to go for a second lesson another day, she is informed that John has left Japan. Double twist, he left Japan with Mika. Despite her initial depression, her overbearing and judgmental sister Ayako (Kaho Minami) has made the decision to chase her daughter and possibly bring her home, and Setsuko accompanies her.
This movie had me, then it lost me, then it had me again. While not great, it’s compelling.
Much of the early buzz is that Terajima is a knock out, and… yeah, she really is. Well, okay, I don’t think she’s going to win any Oscars for her performance, but she’s certainly an actress that I enjoy watching and hope that she gets more involved with American films in the future. There’s something about the way she closes her eyes when she hugs Hartnett, and the way her arms awkwardly hold him that perfectly blends charming with creepy.
And that’s what’s kind of fascinating about the story. Early on, we see the crush she has on John. Not long after that’s established, we see that John and Mika are together. Later on, we know that the only reason why Setsuko is going to L.A. is because she wants to find John. Between then and the moment we learn that Mika broke up with him, I had no idea where the story was going to go. Was she just going to learn to accept the situation as is? Try to steal him away from her niece? There was no obvious direction that would go in and I was thoroughly intrigued.
Even when the story finally gets to where you’d think it’d go, Setsuko sleeping with John, I thought the sex scene was highly random. But the more I thought about it, the more it started to make sense for her character. The woman is lonely. She take pills, due to her depression. Her crush on John is fast-acting, and travels all the way to America to find him, not her own niece. It’s clear that the woman is unstable and was practically waiting for something to push her over that edge. John was that push. Young, hot, overly friendly, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t make that same mistakes with women. So when her feelings finally bite her in the ass, I weirdly identified with her pain, as warranted as John’s actions were, and I’ll never deny that John wasn’t wrong being pissed off with Setsuko in the end.
There’s also no shortage of smaller scenes that made me laugh. Pretty much anything involving her overweight co-worker in the beginning who has a serious lady-boner for cinnamon and her over-the-top retirement speech. Some lines are incredibly funny, like when Mika is begging her aunt to take the classes, she says, “I’ll change your diapers when you’re really, really old!” That was insensitively hilarious.
Unfortunately, it’s not all smiles and good times. This movie does have some… glaring problems for my taste.
For one thing, the very first scene we get with Setsuko and John are pretty confusing. For one thing, John completely refuses to allow Japanese in his classroom, calling it an “English Only Zone.” So it’s not entirely clear if he straight up doesn’t speak Japanese, or Setsuko speaks enough English to understand what his silly caveman gestures are supposed to mean. It’s not until later where we learn that John does, indeed, speak a little bit Japanese, or rather understands it better than speaks it. But this fact isn’t made clear until the story’s gone in full swing.
There’s a bunch of smaller issues too. The reasons for John not teaching aren’t completely made clear. I mean, okay, we know he left Japan with Mika, I know that much. So… why does the classroom building attendants, or whoever they are, tell Setsuko that he was causing problems? Was he fired, or did he quit? Maybe I’m thinking too hard about it, but it’s a weird little detail that sticks out to me. And right after, she heads on over to her co-worker’s farewell party and… is Setsuko drunk? I think that’s the implication, but between finding out that John quit and arriving at the party, we don’t even get a HOT FUZZ (2007)-style quit cut of her taking shots of alcohol before arriving, so she just looks like she’s in a daze or a trance. Oh, and Megan Mullally is wasted talent in this flick. She’s literally in one scene that lasts less that five minutes long. What happened, was she heading over to a different set and the filmmakers caught her in between her journey and asked her make a quick cameo? Weird.
The biggest problems that I have with the movie are during the final scenes. For one thing, Setsuko and Mika just happen to meet randomly on the streets of San Diego? Okay, I know San Diego isn’t exactly New York City where two people rarely ever randomly meet, but still, it’s a crowded city and I don’t buy the random meeting, especially since Mika seemed to be pretty erratic in her traveling. But that’s not the biggest issue. The biggest issue is her reaction to Setsuko sleeping with John. Mika had just finished a tangent about how she was through with John, he’d never told her about his secret family, she seemed to be very much over him. But then Setsuko admits to having sex with John and she not only attacks her aunt, but throws herself over a cliff, nearly committing suicide. Um… why? I think the implication here is that she secretly still loved John and she was just processing her feelings about what he hadn’t told her, but it’s also not very clear just how long they’d been dating. Again, I think it’s implied that it’s been awhile, but with the amount of implications that are in this movie, just once it’d be nice to be given a straight answer. Not to mention, we don’t know how long John and Mika were broken up for. Perhaps it was recently, but then that was probably a really brief relationship. Traveling all the way to America just to break up with the man that brought you there, that seems particularly bitchy. So really, when Mika throws herself off that cliff, I couldn’t help but think that she was simply crazy, and that’s not how I want to generalize this character.
Also why was Mika pregnant. No! No, I’m not talking about the birds and the bees. I’m talking about the narrative. What function does her pregnancy have to the story? If you took out her pregnancy, what does the movie really lose? I think the story also mentions that she got an abortion. Again, why did any of this matter? You take all of these elements out of the movie and you miss nothing about the characters. Their motivations never change. Even Mika doesn’t seem to be shaken up at all for someone who got an abortion. Hell, if you can believe this, the audience never learns about her pregnancy until much later in the story. But funny enough, everyone else in the story seemed to be perfectly aware of her pregnancy. It’s such an odd detail to add and feels like it’s trying to make us care for a character that we know very little about.
Overall, the movie isn’t great, but I still like it more than I didn’t. There’s definitely some charm that Terajima brings to Setsuko, who is a pretty complex woman. Hartnett delivers a great performance as always, and the characters are overall pretty good, with few exceptions. Granted, there’s some character choices that I didn’t agree with and some scenes that would have benefited from elaboration, but I still kind of recommend it. It’s an indie film, so it might be a tad difficult to find in theaters, but if you find it, take it up on a matinee price. If you’re still on the fence about it, the I highly recommend it as a rental. It’s a solid flick with flaws, but you could do much worse. Charming with a hint of twisted. Flawed, but worth it.
My honest rating for OH LUCY!: a strong 3/5