tek's rating: ½

The Ramen Girl (PG-13)
IMDb; RLJ Entertainment; Wikipedia

Caution: potential spoilers.

This movie is kind of ridiculous. But not as bad as I feared. I suppose I never would have watched it if I weren't so enamored of all things Japanese, but I'm kind of glad I did... though I don't feel the need to ever see it again. Anyway, it stars Brittany Murphy as an American girl named Abby, who moves to Japan to be with her boyfriend, Ethan. However, soon after she arrives, he has to leave on a job, with no guarantee that he'll ever return. (I'm assuming he owned the place he was staying, and let her stay there rent-free, but it's not really clear.) I dunno, he kind of seemed like a jerk, but also I kind of got the sense she may have misinterpreted conversations they had prior to the movie. Heard what she wanted to hear, style of thing. Whatever, in essence he dumped her. She had a job in Tokyo already (which is kind of unbelievable), but she soon quit that. See, one night she wandered into a ramen shop after it was closed. And she started crying, so the proprietor, Maezumi, and his wife Reiko, gave her a bowl of ramen. Sometime soon after that, for no readily apparent reason, she decided she wanted to learn to cook ramen, herself.

Something I should mention, first of all, is that most Americans have no concept of what real ramen is like. In fact I myself have never tasted real ramen, but I really want to. The ridiculous thing about this movie is that Abby spoke virtually no Japanese (though her grasp of the language seems to improve to a very small degree, over the course of the movie), and Maezumi and Reiko spoke just as little English. And the lack of understanding between Abby and her "sensei" went beyond a language barrier; there was this fundamental difference in their thinking. Though I do think if not for the language thing, the other problem would have been far more easily resolved. Still, she spent about a year there, and most of the time she and Maezumi didn't get along well at all. They each pretty much thought the other was crazy, but Abby was stubborn, and refused to quit trying to learn, no matter what.

Anyway... she did meet a couple of people who knew Ethan, before he left. One of them was a woman named Gretchen, and the other was some guy... eh, I dunno his name, but he's not that important. Still, sometime later the three of them meet a Japanese guy named Toshi, who had spent a year in America and so he spoke decent English. Sometime later, again, Abby and Toshi became closer, eventually developing a romantic relationship. I have no bloody clue why it never occurred to either of them that he should translate for her with her sensei, but whatever. He eventually has to leave, because of his own job. Ummo... what else should I say? There was one Japanese guy who kept coming into the ramen shop, who apparently had a crush on Abby, and I think he was related to a couple of old ladies who were also regular customers there. And maybe they were all related to at least one other guy. I dunno, none of them were that important, but it bears mentioning them at least in passing. Also I should say there's a very minor subplot (I hesitate to even call it that), about Maezumi and Reiko's son (who is never seen) having left like five years earlier. (At first I assumed he was dead, but I was wrong.) There's also a rival ramen shop owner, whose name I don't know, who had been training his own son to be his successor. Toward the end of the movie, they were anticipating the arrival of a Grand Master, who would taste the son's ramen and possibly give his blessing. I should say Maezumi got drunk a lot, and at one point said to his rival that... the Grand Master should try Abby's ramen. Or whatever.

Sigh. Anyway... I dunno. Basically Abby had to learn to put her heart into her ramen, rather than just cooking with her head. I won't say how it all ends. But anyway, it was kind of an amusing movie, I guess. And kind of sweet, in a weird way. But mostly just ridiculous. (I flirted with the idea of calling it redonkulous, but I wouldn't go that far.) It was fun seeing Japan, though... and the movie reminded me that I really would love to go there someday. You know, if I ever learn the language, cuz I'm damn sure never going there otherwise. But I really really really want to try some real Japanese ramen. And stuff.


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