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Overall Rating
3.49

Awesome: 19.44%
Worth A Look: 25%
Average41.67%
Pretty Bad: 12.5%
Total Crap: 1.39%

7 reviews, 30 user ratings



Snow Falling on Cedars
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by EricDSnider

"I hear the book is pretty good...."
3 stars

I'm guessing this is the excuse: Well, see, there was snow falling, and so the movie had to drive reeeeaaaallly slow to avoid skidding out.

"Snow Falling on Cedars" has all the makings of a great film. There's a suspenseful murder trial, an ethical dilemma, issues of racism and prejudice, and beautiful cinematography.

Somehow, though, all these elements fail to come together. Instead, we get a film that feels much longer than it is, full of flashbacks, montages, and shots of people looking at each other. (Ethan Hawke, who stars in it, seems to have about 10 lines of dialogue all together.)

Hawke plays Ishmael Chambers, a small-town reporter in 1950s Washington state whose heart is still broken after his Japanese-American love Hatsue (Youki Kudoh) sent him a "Dear John" letter while he was fighting the war and losing an arm. Hatsue instead married another Japanese-American man, Kazuo (Rick Yune), who is now on trial for killing a man whose family screwed his family out of some land. (I've explained it much more clearly, concisely and in proper time sequence than the movie does, by the way.)

Ishmael comes across some evidence that seems to put Kazuo in the clear. His dilemma is whether or not to present it. On the one hand, if he comes forward, justice is served and an innocent man is cleared. On the other hand, if he stays silent, the man goes to prison (or is executed), thus making his beloved Hatsue available again.

It's an interesting quandary whose potential is missed. The war flashbacks in which Ishmael goes through hell for his country and then gets dissed by his girl are harrowing, and almost succeed in making us sympathetic for him. But Hawke is so sullen and sulky throughout the entire film, effectively pushing the audience away, when all we want to do is give him a hug.

Furthermore, there's no evidence to suggest that Hatsue regrets marrying Kazuo and wishes she'd married Ishmael -- which means even if he lets Kazuo get convicted, that's no guarantee Hatsue will take him back.

And still furthermore, the teen-age romance between Ishmael and Kazuo is shown entirely in flashbacks, with very little dialogue and very many scenes of them running through the woods and lounging around the hollow of a tree. These are nice, but they're played by younger actors playing the same characters. Scenes establishing the love between Ethan Hawke's Ishmael and Youki Kudoh's Hatsue are few -- and even there, Hawke is still adamantly poker-faced.

Everything is muted (except the orchestral soundtrack). The potentially exciting courtroom drama is toned down, the potentially passionate love between Ishmael and Hatsue is glossed over, Ishmael's dilemma is tossed out without really examining it -- the list goes on. A light snow seems to have fallen on the entire movie, covering everything up and leaving forms and shapes of a good film underneath it.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=560&reviewer=247
originally posted: 07/06/03 20:01:28
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User Comments

1/09/09 Anonymous. so beautifully shot, the story and message of sacrifice is well-done and heartbreaking. 4 stars
1/07/08 Casey The book is much easier to understand than the movie. 2 stars
1/01/06 Michael Disjointed Movie 2 stars
10/27/05 rhiannon worthnothing very emotional,greg is silly! 5 stars
10/06/05 Gavin Liked it a lot. A movie for anyone who understands what it is to have loved and lost. 5 stars
9/26/05 R.W. Welch Slow and too artsy, but nice cinematography. OK story line. 3 stars
4/27/04 Yilly Great love story. Although, I wished it made it more suspenseful. Hatsue+Ismael forever! 4 stars
1/08/04 A F Good art direction. Doesn't keep you on the edge of your seat though. 4 stars
12/08/03 Arthur Refreshing to find a tearjerker that actually moves me. 5 stars
6/17/03 Erin sad but beautifully and so emotional 5 stars
3/26/03 Jack Sommersby Brilliantly photographed yet emotionally inert. Another Hicks debacle. 2 stars
1/31/03 Josh Not read book - not confused at all! Cinematic symphony! - perfection 5 stars
4/12/02 Amy If I hadn't read the book first, I'd be totally confused. 3 stars
2/27/02 natasha the story gently unfolds with sensitivity and subtlety unmatched in recent memory 5 stars
1/14/02 Andrew Carden For The 1st Time In Film History: A Love Story That Actually Works! 5 stars
6/25/01 Shine Part Duex Great film. Although un accessable to most because its so fucking SLOW. 4 stars
5/01/01 summer its ok. not too interesting 3 stars
2/25/01 Justin Goll Scott Hicks has crafted a beautiful masterpiece of sensitivity and introspection. 5 stars
1/25/01 Terrie Smith Robert Richardson's cinematography; Max Von Sydow's acting save this moody film. 4 stars
12/21/00 Jason F the only reason i watched it was for a report on the book and the movie 3 stars
5/21/00 Jess Great film. Too bad Richardson didnt when the Oscar for this. Great actors too. 5 stars
2/28/00 B it was too long and boring 1 stars
2/26/00 Joanie Good story, followed the book well. But why Ethan Hawke? 4 stars
2/02/00 Vanessa Bdadham A tragic, moving beauty. 5 stars
1/30/00 Neil Skarich Too many flashbacks/not enough character development/over directed/visually over contrived 3 stars
1/09/00 Z the movie really moved me and got me thinking 5 stars
1/07/00 Michael McLennan A film that is exceptional for its rendering of detail. 5 stars
12/27/99 gopher sumptuous, moving and affecting 5 stars
12/26/99 Kent Mark The movie was great, i would watch it again. 5 stars
12/19/99 schmo-3 The style seems to overwhelm the story. 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  22-Dec-1999 (PG-13)
  DVD: 30-May-2000

UK
  N/A

Australia
  26-Dec-1999


Directed by
  Scott Hicks

Written by
  Ronald Bass
  David Guterson

Cast
  Rick Yune
  Ethan Hawke
  Max von Sydow
  Youki Kudoh
  Anthony Harrison
  Sam Shepard



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