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Fine, Totally Fine
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by Jay Seaver

"90% quirk, but pleasant quirk."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2009 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: "Fine, Totally Fine" has one of the highest quirk-to-story ratios ever recorded in a feature-length motion picture. It is, admittedly, though to measure, as both the plot and the digressions from it are so wispy that it's almost impossible to get much of a grasp on either. Both aspects are pleasant enough, although so lightweight that the movie threatens to float away as soon as its finished.

The film focuses on three people in their twenties: Teruo Tohyama (Yoshiyoshi Arakawa) is a horror-movie otaku who delights in playing morbid pranks on those around him; when he's not constructing these elaborate gags, he's working days trimming trees the city's parks or watching the used bookstore owned by his father Eitaro (Keizo Kani'e). He still lives with his dad, who lately has been suffering from depression. His best friend and frequent partner in crime is Hisanobu Komori (Yoshinori Okada), a much more strait-laced type who works in personnel at a local hospital. He has recently hired Akari Kinoshita (Yoshino Kimura) as part of the cleaning crew, which may be a mistake because she is as clumsy as she is beautiful and shy. For all her inability to control her hands in most situations, though, she is a gifted artist.

The festival program describes Fine, Totally Fine as longtime supporting player Arakawa's first real leading role, which I suppose is technically true if you reckon such things by screen time and. Teruo certainly has the most subplots attached to him: There's his dream of building the world's greatest haunted house, the amateur horror movie he and Hisanobu are working on with some friends, his father's creeping ennui, and the crush he's developing on Akari. Arakawa gives a nice performance, although it's not terribly far removed from his scene-stealing supporting work in nature: Teruo is immature, seldom the smartest guy in the room, and even a bit mean, but still oddly admirable for his stubbornness on sticking with what makes him happy, even as the world looks down on him.

For all that Teruo has the most going on at any given time, Yoshino Kimura's Akari is probably its central character. None of the characters change radically over the course of the film, but Akari is the one whose growth is most the result of decisions she makes, and her maturation is the one which the audience can most clearly see as it happens. As much as we grow fond of each of the film's characters, she's the one most likely to inspire something approaching love in the audience.

Not that anything about this film is likely to inspire ill feelings; writer/director Yosuke Fujita fills it with little gems, eliding over uncomfortable moments and generally finding the bright side of almost every situation. The film tends to skip over the obviously dramatic moments in favor for the oddball ones, and finds humor in things that other movies might make mean-spirited: Akari's unlikely broken finger, for instance, or Teruo's penchant for scaring small children. The minor characters (which, at times, seems to include Hisanobu) come off well too, always having their own personalities rather than just being filler.

It makes for a pleasant couple of hours. Not much more than pleasant, though - all the time invested in certain characters doesn't necessarily lead anywhere, story-wise. There's an underlying message of not letting how others feel dictate how you live your life, especially if you find something that makes you happy, but it's not necessarily a lesson that these characters particularly need, and the film doesn't come up with a new and overwhelming way of presenting it.

Which is fine. Totally fine, even. It's a feel-good movie that does make the audience feel good, and that's nothing to complain about.

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originally posted: 07/29/09 10:54:24
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2009 Fantasia Festival For more in the 2009 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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  14-Nov-2008 (15)
  DVD: 11-May-2009


Directed by
  Yosuke Fujita

Written by
  Yosuke Fujita

  YosiYosi Arakawa
  Yoshino Kimura
  Yoshinori Okada

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