Movie Review: Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)

Starring: Ziyi Zhang, Ken Watanabe and Michelle Yeoh

Directed by: Rob Marshall

Nitta Sayuri transforms from humble beginnings in a fishing village to being one of Japan’s most celebrated Geisha. She tells her story of servitude and discipline as she becomes desired and sought after throughout Japan’s social middle class.

This is one of many movies that I’ve been meaning to watch for the longest time. It comes critically acclaimed and anybody that I’ve spoken to who has seen it always has noting but praise for the Oscar winning movie. I was roughly aware of what the story of the movie was but still didn’t quite know what a Geisha actually was so my wife took a little time to Google what they were and once we kind of understood their purpose we sat back and pressed play.

My wife said it during the course of the movie and I completely agree with her point that it’s a movie that I’m glad I didn’t watch when I was younger. When I was younger I wouldn’t have appreciated the artistic nature of the movie with its great costume design and cinematography. As I grow older I’ve become more appreciative of everything that goes into to making a movie whereas as a teenager all I needed from a film was a combination of explosions in abundance and good fight sequences. Now as an almost 30 year old man I can sit down and be in awe at the picturesque setting and the acting that tells such a great story of determination, dedication and love.

Ziyi Zhang is incredible as she plays aspiring Geisha Sayuri as she is transformed from the daughter of a small village fisherman to the most desirable Geisha in the province. The rollercoaster ride of emotion her character goes on is depicted brilliantly by the actress as she goes through such elation and despair throughout the course of her journey. Michelle Yeoh is equally as wonderful as she plays Mameha, an experienced Geisha who takes a young Sayuri under her wing and teaches her everything she needs to know to be successful and much sought after. There were also plenty of additional great supporting roles from the likes of Ken Watanabe, Suzuka Ohgo and Kaori Momoi among others that really made Memoirs of a Geisha a great ensemble performance which showcased the talents of the largely Asian cast.

It’s really easy to see why Memoirs of a Geisha won three Oscars in the artistic Academy Award categories such as best cinematography and art direction as well as being nominated for several other awards for its sound and score. It’s truly an epic artistic achievement which is only really let down by its hectic story. I found the plot to be simple enough to follow but at times the story became diluted with so many characters and side story’s that it became hard to keep track of everything and everyone, especially during the middle of the movie where the transition was made from showing the story from a younger perspective to an older one. The runtime for me was also a bit of an issue as it’s just shy of two and a half hours and while the movie was visually pleasing, the story felt needlessly stretched out.

Overall, Memoirs of a Geisha was a good movie which boasted a great appearance and some wonderful acting but was ultimately let down slightly by the slow nature of the story which felt as though it was a little messy at times with not a lot of depth. Still worth checking out though.


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