The Ramen Girl (2009)
Starring: Brittany Murphy, Gabriel Mann
Studio: Media 8 Entertainment/Image Entertainment MEE6084DVD
Video: 1.85:1 enhanced for 16:9 color
Audio: DD 5.1, DD 2.0
Extras: Many deleted scenes, Alternate ending, Theatrical trailer
Length: 102 minutes
The decision to release this American film as a direct-to-DVD effort was probably the right one, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth viewing. The publicity promotes it as a cross between Lost In Translation and Tampopo, but aside from the Japanese setting I can’t agree. It has a much better reflection of Japanese culture than the former but cannot compare to the latter’s masterpiece of warmhearted parody.
A cute American girl comes to Tokyo to join her American boyfriend working there, but he takes off to another city and abandons her. In her grief she visits a ramen shop across the street from her apartment and sees how customers come in sad and leave very happy after imbibing the noodles and broth. She asks the owner to teach her to be a ramen chef and then struggles with the toilet-cleaning and other scut work he gives her. The fact that he doesn’t speak any English and she doesn’t understand any Japanese ramps up their already volatile relationship in which they sometimes seem ready to kill one another. When she meets a nice Japanese man with a good command of English one hopes he will be called in to translate, but that doesn’t occur. She shows great determination in her quest and keeps bouncing back when things seem hopeless. She gets some sympathy from the owner’s wife. The couple’s son has skipped on taking over the ramen shop and moved to Paris to study French cuisine.
One is left to wonder why so many deleted scenes were shot for what obviously was a low-budget movie. Some of them delve into Yakusa characters, plus another American girl in Tokyo who is a hooker for the Yakusa, crosses them and is killed. It was also the right decision to edit out all of that. Although rather exaggerated and formulaic, the film develops some interesting Japanese characters in ways that are probably not offensive to the Japanese. In fact, I understand the film is well-received in Japan.
– John Sunier