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Memoirs of a Geisha is based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Arthur Golden.
Brought to life by Rob Marshall Memoirs tells the tale of Sayuri Nita a young woman sold by her father to a geisha house and went on to become the most successful geisha during her time.
While I usually wouldn't start off talking about what is wrong with a movie Memoirs has some glaring problems.
The main problem is that this story of geisha is very Japanese, deeply rooted in Japanese culture and tradition yet all of the leading ladies are Chinese and everyone is speaking broken English.
So to wrap that up neatly, Memoirs of a Geisha is a story of Japanese women, played by Chinese actresses who are all speaking broken American English.
It begs the question: what was Rob Marshall thinking?It's a little like when they had white actors playing Native Americans or Black people in American movies.
Now, if you can get past that gaffe, Memoirs is visually stunning.
The sets are just breathtaking.
It is filled with the most amazing settings and the most perfect flowers.
I mean the blossoms on many of the trees were so perfect I just can't believe they were real.
And the beauty of the movie didn't just stop with the settings but Colleen Atwood, the movies costume designer needs an Oscar nod becomes the costumes, from the women's Kimonos to the men's suits, were all stunning.
Memoirs is high on visual gratification but a little low on storytelling.
While a well acted movie it was missing a little something.
This something would take the movie from being a pretty good movie to a great one.
Michelle Yeoh is excellent as Mameha, mentor to Ziyi Zhang's Sayuri.
She manages to be fierce, calculating and vulnerable while maintaing a perfectly polite, respectful demeanor.
Ziyi Zhang doesn't quite work as Sayuri, the latest geisha phenom who lusts after a man she may never have.
While her performance isn't flat it doesn't have the range of emotion this character calls for.
She's not quite angry enough when she needs to be, she doesn't have the overflow of emotion that this character needs to get through her tragic and demanding existence, when she should show restraint she seems to disconnect instead.
Ziyi Zhang showed us her amazing acting talent in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon but seemed to leave those talents at home for Memoirs.
The biggest disappointment of the movie was Li Gong as Hatsumomo.
While I don't think it's her fault but the way Rob Marshall and writers Robin Swicord and Doug Wright interpreted the character from the novel, Hatsumomo comes across as vain, vindictive, insipid and whorish.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Yes Hatsumomo's character is vain and vindictive in the novel but there are reasons for this behavior that the movie barely touches on.
They also portray her romance with a neighborhood young man as merely a fling without underscoring the isolation and loneliness of the geisha world.
The men in the movie are wholly underwhelming and don't bear mentioning.
All in all Memoirs is a very good film that barely misses being a really great one.
It is definitely worth viewing if for no other reason than to immerse yourself in the beautiful, sad and mysterious world of the geisha.
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