Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Movie Log: Big Dreams, Little Tokyo

Big Dreams, Little Tokyo is set in San Jose, but the movie itself won't tell you that -- and Netflix is confused enough to think that it's set in real Tokyo.

Boyd Wilson (writer/director Dave Boyle) is a young businessman, CEO of a large array of Japanese language-related businesses (translation services, publisher of his how-to-learn-English book, and so on), and seemingly obsessed with Japanese-ness. One character accuses him of wanting to be Japanese, but that doesn't seem to be what he really wants: he has clearly internalized the idea of the Japanese salaryman, and is trying to be one in a different land. His main activity is going up to people who look Japanese and asking if they need English lessons -- this is not nearly as successful as it might be, seeing that he is in Northern California.

His roommate, the half-Japanese Jerome (Jayson Watabe), is on an equally Quixotic journey: he wants to be a sumo wrestler. So Jerome spends his time eating obsessively, and Boyd tries to sell his book or teaching services to everyone he sees. But one day, after a heart-attack scare at a Japanese restaurant, Jerome is rushed to the hospital and Boyd meets and immediately falls for the Japanese-American nurse Mai (Rachel Morihiro).

Their romance is mostly subtext; Boyd doesn't ask her on dates, but does ask her if she wants more language lessons (which she is paying for). Their relationship is cute and underplayed, and within the realm of naturalistic -- for a quirky independent movie, if not for real life.

Big Dreams is mostly about Boyd, and it takes him seriously -- so the viewer has to also be able to take him seriously. It's a film for those of us who like small comedies about people finding their place in the world, and for those people worried that they're too obsessed with Japanese things. It's not a great movie, but it holds its own, and it's well worth watching.

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