×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Dreams for Sale

Nipponese helmer-scribe Miwa Nishikawa continues to explore themes of deceit with her fourth film, "Dreams for Sale," a provocative portrait of a husband and wife who scam women desperate for love.

With:
With: Takako Matsu, Sadawo Abe, Lena Tanaka, Sawa Suzuki, Yuka Ebara, Tae Kimura, Yusuke Iseya, Tsurube Shofukutei, Teruyuki Kagawa. By Maggie Lee

Nipponese helmer-scribe Miwa Nishikawa continues to explore themes of deceit with her fourth film, “Dreams for Sale,” a provocative portrait of a husband and wife who scam women desperate for love. Lacking the tightly wound suspense of her her 2006 picture “Sway” or the droll moral ambivalence of 2009’s “Dear Doctor,” this circuitous yarn is precariously held together by coolly disturbing character studies and a nuanced rendition of female calculation by Takako Matsu (“Confessions”). Straining to be a dramedy yet steeped in cynicism and pathos, pic reps a bitter pill for mainstream auds but suits arthouse, ancillary and fest play.

In Miyamae, a commuter district near Tokyo, Kanya Ichizawa (Sadawo Abe) and wife Satoko (Takako Matsu) celebrate the fifth anniversary of their restaurant, only to see it burn to ashes. Satomi keeps her chin up while slaving away at a grungy ramen shop, while Kanya falls into a funk. Kanya lucks out when a one-night stand with regular customer Reiko (Sawa Suzuki) results in a windfall; soon the couple is fleecing women susceptible to Kanya’s puppy-dog charm. Their first victim is prim Satsuki (Lena Tanaka), cracking under family pressure to marry.

Up to this point, the drama is entirely absorbing as it focuses intently on its protags’ misfortunes. Nevertheless, with each target, from painfully diffident Olympic weightlifter Hitomi (Yuka Ebara) to cash-strapped prostitute Kana (Tamae Ando) to gentle divorcee Takiko (Tae Kimura), Kanya and Satoko’s unscrupulous behavior becomes more alarming and grueling to watch.

One senses Nishikawa’s scorn for the scammers, but not always her sympathy for the scammed. The anecdotal structure doesn’t quicken the film’s momentum, and the respectable supporting thesps, plus star cameos, make interesting but not lasting impressions. Nevertheless, the helmer’s clinical anatomy of a crumbling marriage is refreshing in its sexual openness.

Satoko’s characterization is a masterful mockery of Japanese female stoicism taken to extremes; although her controlling nature seems well-intentioned initially, she gradually discloses underlying selfishness and schadenfreude. Matsu, whose career as a national sweetheart rivals that of Sayori Yoshinaga in the ’60s, goes even further than she did in “Confessions” to subvert her image of idealized femininity, flaring up like a vicious animal before just as quickly regaining her silky composure.

From the decisive opening scene in which his distraction and clumsiness cause the restaurant fire, Kanya’s unlikely and reluctant Don Juan, played unflatteringly with a surfeit of weak will and pigheadedness by Abe, may have trouble convincing Western auds and, indeed, most male viewers. But the character’s inadequacies only reinforce how vulnerable women can be whenever anyone dangles the illusion of love, as conveyed by the Japanese title, which translates as “Dream-vending Duo.”

Tech credits are pro. Keiko Mitsumatsu’s production design re-creates the culture of Tokyo’s izakaya (equivalent to bistros), evoking an atmosphere conducive to suggestive interactions between lovelorn strangers. A light, jazzy score softens the satirical venom.

Dreams for Sale

Japan

Production: An Asmik Ace Entertainment release of a Bandai Visual Co. Office Shirous, Yomiuri Telecasting, Asmik Ace Entertainment, Bungeishunju, Dentsu, Eisei Gekijo Co., Papado, Yahoo Japan, Ennet presentation of a Office Shirous production. (International sales: Asmik Ace Entertainment, Tokyo.) Produced by Shiro Sasaki. Executive producers, Hiroko Matsuda, Kosuke Oshida, Hiroyuki Fujikado, Asako Nishikawa, Kayo Yoshida. Directed, written by Miwa Nishikawa, based on her story.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Katsumi Yanagijima; editor, Ryuji Miyajima; music, More Rhythm; production designer, Keiko Mitsumatsu; costume designer, Miwako Kobayashi; sound (Dolby SR), Mitsugu Shiratori; visual effects supervisor, Kentaro Nishio; line producer, Kosuke Oshide; assistant director, Shinji Kuma. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Special Presentations), Sept. 10, 2012. (Also in Vancouver Film Festival.) Running time: 136 MIN.

Cast: With: Takako Matsu, Sadawo Abe, Lena Tanaka, Sawa Suzuki, Yuka Ebara, Tae Kimura, Yusuke Iseya, Tsurube Shofukutei, Teruyuki Kagawa. By Maggie Lee

More Scene

  • John CenaSports Illustrated Sportsperson of the

    John Cena on WWE's Acceptance by Hollywood and the Professional Sports World

    John Cena says the WWE is finally getting the attention it deserves by Hollywood and the professional sports world. “I’m just glad that no longer are we looked down upon, not only by the sport industry, but by the performing arts industry,” Cena told Variety on Tuesday night in Beverly Hills at Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of [...]

  • Steve Carell Welcome to Marwen

    Steve Carell on New Film 'Welcome to Marwen' and Reprising His 'Anchorman' Character

    In 2000, Mark Hogancamp was nearly beaten to death by five men outside of a bar. Left with brain damage and little money to afford therapy, Hogancamp began creating miniature doll versions of himself, his friends, and his attackers as a way to cope. This true story inspired the 2010 documentary “Marwencol” and the upcoming [...]

  • Christian Bale'Vice' film premiere, Arrivals, Los

    Christian Bale Recalls Meeting Donald Trump: 'He Thought I Was Bruce Wayne'

    With Christian Bale‘s latest film, “Vice,” a political dramedy, it’s inevitable ties will be drawn between the film and the current political administration and its chief, President Donald Trump. On the red carpet for the premiere of “Vice,” Bale, who stars as former Vice President Dick Cheney, shared that he met the current president while [...]

  • Amy Poehler Is Ready for a

    Amy Poehler Is Ready for a 'Parks and Rec' Reunion

    Is Amy Poehler just getting our hopes up? We hope not, because the funny lady tells Variety that she’s ready for a “Parks and Recreation” reunion. More Reviews Film Review: 'The Quake' Film Review: Clint Eastwood in 'The Mule' “I am technically available,” Poehler said on Monday at Smart Girls’ 10th anniversary celebration dinner. “I have [...]

  • Meredith Walker, Rashida Jones, Amy Poehler,

    Inside Amy Poehler's Smart Girls 10th Anniversary Dinner (EXCLUSIVE)

    “I’ve made an observation I’d like to share. I’m the only one that’s eaten my crab cake,” joked Amy Poehler as she addressed the room during the round robin introductions being made at her Smart Girls 10th anniversary dinner on Monday night. The 16 women at the table, who were so enthralled in the conversation [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron, Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de

    Alfonso Cuaron Says 'Roma' Is Better in Theaters

    Director Alfonso Cuaron opted to work with Netflix for his latest film “Roma,” but the decorated filmmaker isn’t discounting the importance of a big-screen viewing. “The complete experience of ‘Roma’ is unquestionably in a movie theater,” Cuaron said Monday night at the Egyptian Theater in Los Angeles for the premiere of “Roma.”  More Reviews Film Review: [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content