Film Review: Paradise Kiss (Japan, 2011)

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From Ai Yazawa manga masterpiece Paradise Kiss comes a beautiful and fresh live action movie by Takehiko Shinjo that teach the strive of achieving your dream and love.

“If you want it, you’ll get it. Nothing happens unless you believe in yourself.”

Yukari Hayasaka (Keiko Kitagawa) life was perfect, she had everything planned from top high school, top university, to top career. All her life she focus on her study just like what her mother wanted her to be. But then it all changes when she met Arashi Nagase (Kento Kaku) and Miwako Sakurada (Aya Omasa) who scouted her to be a Yazademy student runaway model. Hayasaka who decline the offer got a visit from George Koizumi (Osamu Mukai) and Isabelle (Shunji Igarashi) on her school to persuade her in helping them for their final year runaway.

“But why is it the more i get bawled out, the more i want to hang with them?” Hayasaki then realised that this might be the path that she wanted all along. She then agrees to help the four students to be their model, even though it means leaving her own house because of her mother’s disapproval. The more deeper she goes into the modelling world she finally realise her true calling. But then things doesn’t goes as smooth as they wish to be, with the clothing brand Paradise Kiss not making profit, the four students decided to go their separate ways after graduation. What would happen then to them? What would happen to Hayasaka and her dream?

The movie focus in a different hardships in life that each of the characters faced. Hayasaki who want to pursue her dream but disapproved by her mother who wants her to focus on study. George, Isabella, Miwako, and Arashi who wants to continue their dream through Paradise Kiss brand but unfortunately didn’t really work out. George who’s similar like Hayasaka doesn’t really want to follow what his parents laid out for him. Isabelle who have his sexual insecurities who then found his identity through George’s gift for him. Miwako, Arashi, and Hiroyuki (Yusuke Yamamoto) who became strangers to one another from a past of close friendship.

However as the movie gradually comes to an end, each of the characters found their own answers and identity, problems got resolved, friendships and love blooms.

“I’m like you. Your mom decided things for you, and my talent decided them for me” George said to Hayasaki. George’s character starts off very cold and mysterious, he is depicted the cool and good looking star in the movie. But then as they work together, George realise that Hayasaki and him both are going through the same pain that they are trying to free themselves from. Their parents dictate them to be something that they never wanted. From then on George always tries to encourage Hayasaki (in his own way) in choosing her own path and dream with her own will.

One of the scene shows that when going back from the studio, Hayasaki mentioned about her mom for the first time to George, how her mom would slapped her if she doesn’t get a good mark. She was mentioning how that’s why it made her study really hard and how pitiful she is. George then took her to a hotel and when Hayasaki tries to resist George’s intention to kiss he remind her that it wasn’t by force that she comes to this place in the first place. It’s never anyone’s fault that she ended up in this position, it’s her own choice and it’s the same with her decision to do what her mother wanted her to be.

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Despite his encouragement for Hayasaki and moments pointed out that Hayasaki is his muse, i personally never understand how did he develop feelings for Hayasaki. I can see how Hayasaki’s one developed slowly although wasn’t that vivid. She opens up to him towards the middle and her first impression of him being ‘scary’ slowly disappears as she get to know him more. But for the George’s perspective, there wasn’t any real moments or expression that he shows towards her other than creepily staring at her most of the time. It might starts with the ‘empathy’ he have towards her and wanting her to break through that shell, “You don’t know who you are” and endless encouragement, “Yukari, i know you can do this”, especially when he gave her the butterfly ring in the fashion show that symbolizes freedom. The fashion show would be the climax of his affection towards her when he showed it by the kiss he gave her. But then again when they go their separate ways he didn’t say or do anything. It’s probably best if he shows more emotion or gestures in showing their mutual love progress.

Through comparing the live action movie with the manga series there are several things that’s quite distinct. Some of the scene are told differently, in the live action example, Hayasaki and George met for the first time in the studio when Hayasaki woke up after being fainted on the street where on the other hand in the manga series they did not met until George pay Hayasaki a visit in her school. The characters are very exaggerated in term of personality compared to the live action and more things are laid out in detailed which was never even mentioned in the live action. Example can be shown for George personality which is rather flamboyant and playboy in the manga series whereas the live actions shows a more cool and quiet type although he still gives off the playboy type. But all of these differences are understandable since the manga series have tons of episodes to build up the characters and mood when the live action only have 2 hours to compact the whole storyline.

From the cinematography point of view there were several flaws through their wide shots that are just too wide. Its to the point that you can’t even tell what the characters are doing or even where the characters is. You just have the need to zoom in from the audience perspective. One of the example is from the scene nearing the end when Hayasaki reach George’s studio in America, she just got down from the taxi. The shot shows a very wide shot of the two buildings and tiny bit on the left corner is Hayasaki getting down from the taxi. It’s just personally very bugging and urging the need of zooming because can’t really tell what she’s doing from a far perspective like so. There was also a time when she was picking up the drawing in George’s studio and accidentally hit a stack of magazines which magically falls down neatly to the ground and open up in the exact page with her pictures on it.

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“With make-up and pretty dress, a girl is reborn over and over. Beautiful clothes give people courage and confidence. That’s why we’ve gone on making them. Maybe in the dress we’ve made, courage will work its magic on you”

The movie sums up about reaching your dreams and love along the way, with this one focusing in the fashion industry. Until the last point Hayasaki then realised that she was never serious about her dream, never have the confidence and courage to take it. After the final runaway she then realise that this is what she wants to pursue and she made a promise to George that she’s going to make it big.

“You found me this road and told me to walk it on my own feet” and that’s what Hayasaki did until the end. Sometimes we may need that little push from someone but in the end it’s our own dream, nothing will happen if we don’t do anything.

Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)