Movie review: Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) is a socially isolated misfit in Tokyo. Her only sources of solace are her pet rabbit and a static riddled VHS copy of Fargo. Societal pressures from her professional and personal life compel Kumiko to follow her dream: to find the briefcase of money buried in the movie.

Junggugeo Kaenada 중국어 캐나다: ★★.5

Side Dish What do you do when you find a rabbit in the middle of a Tokyo subway? This slow-cooked rabbit stew recipe from BBC Good Food is rated as moderately easy. I am just putting it out there.

Using her boss’s credit card, Kumiko escapes on a flight to Minnesota in the depths of winter. Wearing only a red hoodie and using a hand-stitched map, Kumiko relies on the kindness of eccentric strangers or outright cheats them to fulfill her mission.

Even now, I am hard pressed to say if I liked Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter. What first drew me in was the trailer, which featured such arresting images as Kumiko wearing a bright red hood and multicoloured cape in the midst of large expanses of snow, and frozen highways. It also promised quirky characters, and a vaguely mystical air.

When Kumiko arrives in the US, she encounters a whole parade of Fargoesque eccentrics who are all eager to befriend her, despite the communication barrier: religious recruiters, a highway cop, a lonely widow, and deaf cab driver. Unfortunately, Kumiko operates like a sociopath and fails to connect with anyone despite repeat acts of kindness, acting purely in her own self-interest.

As a result, I wonder if Kumiko even manages to connect with the audience. While it is easy to feel sympathy for her while she suffers working a dead end job under a mysogynist boss, and is harried by her domineering mother about marriage, it is painful to watch a protagonist who is obviously suffering from mental illness. Unable to tell the difference between fiction and reality, Kumiko seems destined to do harm to herself. The magic realism gives the viewer faint hope that Kumiko will succeed in spite of herself, but aside from the dread of seeing Kumiko freeze to death, it was hard to care what happened to such a self absorbed character.

Rinko Kikuchi makes Kumiko more sympathetic and appealing than the character would seem on paper by playing her straight. As ludicrous as the character and the scenarios are, it is difficult to mock such a sincere desire to elevate one’s life above the mundane.

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter was nominated for the Independent Spirit Awards and the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Perhaps, the jurors were entranced by the visuals, and loved the quirky characters. For me, the movie was a disappointment, because the most captivating images were already shown in the trailer, and the characters felt hackneyed. I suppose I have made up my mind about the movie, after all.

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