Love Scenario--Film Review

Romantic comedy-drama that’s lacking in sufficient quantities of all three.

Long before the bad compositing becomes apparent, it’s obvious that “Love Scenario” is the kind of chaste, high-concept trifle that viewers will either accept for what it is or groan out loud at: This is subHallmark/Lifetime channel material with weaker TV-grade production values (though considerably better television exists).     

Helmed by Kokami Shoji after a 17-year absence from the director’s chair, “Love Scenario” will find an audience at home in Japan and possibly in Korea and Taiwan where this kind of unchallenging diversion is popular and will be understood better. Chances for success overseas aside from DVD sales to hardcore Japanophiles will be limited, but may never have been intended.

Legendary television writer Taniyama Mayumi (Fukada Kyoko) is suffering a writer’s block. Her problem? She’s not in love, which is the state she needs to be in to write. If you can get past that preposterous conceit, the story settles into a standard formula piece involving Mayumi and the producer hoisted upon her, Mukai (Shiina Kippei), his rival from another department, Yanagihara (Tsukamoto Takashi), corporate conspiracies, a race against time to get the drama’s script done in a week (!) and the nature of true love. The End. Oh, wait. Mayumi and Mukai kiss first — or at least press heavily. 

Lurking somewhere beneath the silliness and histrionics that are supposed to be funny is a potentially biting and observant story about modern media and the constant push/pull between programming, production, and advertising. But that juicy nugget is merely a plot device used to bring the leads closer to the conclusion that was foregone about five minutes in. The focus remains resolutely on the inevitable romance between fumbling, emasculated Mukai and Mayumi, the kind of woman-child defined by an infantile hyper-femininity Japanese cinema calls “modern.” 

To be completely fair, “Love Scenario” has no grand plan to change the world, the film industry, or rewrite gender relations, so to knock it for being fantastical dreck is egregious. It accomplishes what it sets out to do and succeeds on that level, regardless of some forced suspense where there really isn’t any (Will Mayumi discover Yanagihara’s duplicity before it’s too late? Will Mukai find a spine?). The ludicrous story within the story provides a few chuckles for those who haven’t lost patience with the insipid characters, but the normally charming Shiina (“Outrage”) and Fukada (“Kamikaze Girls”) deserve better.


Tokyo International Film Festival, TIFFCOM


Sales: Showgate Inc.

Producer: Nakamura Yosuke, Taguchi Hijiri.

Director: Kokami Shoji.

Screenwriter: Hamamoto Masaki, Kokami Shoji.

Executive producer: Haruna Kei.

Director of Photography: Fujii Yoshihisa.

Music: Ueda Tadashi.

Cast: Fukada Kyoko, Shiina Kippei, Tsukamoto Takashi, Nakamura Masatoshi, Shimizu Misa, Nishimura Masahiko, Inoue Jun.

No rating, 104 minutes