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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Nippon Review: Love and Goodbye and Hawaii (Koi To Sayonara To Hawaii)

Koi To Sayonara To Hawaii: Written by Shingo Matsumura.  Starring: Aya Ayano, Kentaro Tamura, Momoka Ayukawa, Aoi Kato, Risa Kameda.  Running Time: 94 minutes. 

Rating: 2/4

            It’s not easy to make a romantic comedy that stands out.  There are so many millions of them at this point, and so many of them samey and utterly bland, that I sort of pity every filmmaker setting out to make one.  Love and Goodbye and Hawaii, from director Shingo Matsumura, definitely comes from a place of real, genuine experience with the awkwardness of breaking up with someone, but sadly that authenticity is not nearly enough to salvage the film from excessive length and persistent pacing issues. 

            Rinko and Isamu broke up about 6 months ago, but thanks to sheer inertia they are still living together, still jog together every morning, and are pretty much still in the same daily routines as before.  Isamu is working on his graduate thesis, and Rinko is still toiling away in an office job, though an upcoming trip to Hawaii for a friend’s wedding is a bright spot for her to look forward to. 

            This equilibrium, of course, can’t last for long, and when Isamu starts becoming interested in a fellow student it hits home, hard, for Rinko that she really does need to make some hard choices about where her life will go from here, and with whom she wants to spend it with. 

            As always, this sort of film lives or dies on whether or not its leads can sell themselves as living, breathing people that like each other.  Both main actors here have the requisite good chemistry, coming across as real people I have certainly met before.  And this is certainly a worthy subject for a movie, since it’s the sort of crossroads every person encounters at various points in life, and to its credit the film never tries to jump to any extremes- it just presents these people as they are, which it always preferable to overdramatic theatrics. 

            Good subject matter is, sadly, not nearly enough by half to produce a great movie.  It moves at a steady clip, and is not wholly predictable, but still tends to drag far more than can be forgiven, and is too long by half for its own good.  It’s a film that I can respect, but one that doesn’t reach for anything new and ultimately doesn’t end anywhere I couldn’t have been brought by a better film.  There are some great moments shining through- a Hawaii dancing scene is, in context, hilarious and tragic in equal measures, and is a remarkable emotional highlight.  It’s not the only such moment in the film.  But they are too few and far between, which is a real shame. 

-Noah Franc 

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