Starring Rinko Kikuchi, Shirley Venard, David Zellner
Directed by David Zellner
The line between perception and reality is one that can be blurred by either a creative or faulty mind, with the end result being a prosperous recognition of information, or a damning look at how fragile one’s psyche really is. After watching Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter, I’d be willing to offer a commentary on how both sides of the coin have their shiny facets, but since I’m just a guy typing on a computer at 2 a.m., and not a licensed psychiatrist, let’s just stick to my take on this dispiriting tale of a consciousness gone askew.
Kumiko (played by Japanese starlet Rinko Kikuchi), is an utterly worn down woman in a non-stop world, dragging herself through life in a job where she is dogged incessantly by an unappreciative boss who plans on molding her into the perfect “office lady”, and her overbearing vex of a mother. Her apartment is the size of a closet, but she happily escapes there nightly to settle in and watch her favorite movie on VHS: Fargo. She has viewed this tape SO many times that the slightest care is taken when removing it from the player every single night, however there is a reason for her over consumption of the Coen Brothers’ hit film, and it’s due to the treasure she firmly believes is buried in the snow out in a field in Minnesota, hence the blurred line of reality and fantasy. She carefully maps out the exact location of the money-laden briefcase, jotting down measurements and coordinates in a personal notebook, and when her boss errantly tosses her his credit card so she can pick up a gift for his wife, the journey to America is on.
As I type this, it may appear that this is a whirlwind comedy of sorts, and nothing could be further from the truth – Kumiko is a troubled woman who desperately wants to forsake her life in her home country, which is acceptable if there were truly something to run towards, but when the movie begins (like it has so many times over for her), and she sees the opening disclaimer of “this is a true story,” she takes it as a tangible axiom, and it merely pushes her further away from the only home she’s ever known. There’s even a scene where she says goodbye to her pet bunny “Bunzo”, leaving him on a subway car to hopefully find someone to take care of him – it’s simple, and it will break your heart at the same time. Upon arriving in America, the language barrier proves to be another colossal hurdle for Kumiko, leaving her in the hands of some interesting individuals along the way.
Kikuchi absolutely steals the film with her fantastic performance of a sad and lonely spirit, who longs for a better existence, and at times she seems single minded in that purpose. David Zeller (who also directed), plays a police officer who takes her in and tries to shelter her as best as possible, giving off a warm vibe that mixes protection with big-brother like goofiness, unaware that her scarred mind won’t truly allow her to trust his intentions.
When all was said and done, the movie plays out like a sad tale that appears to have no gratifying conclusion to it, and for the majority of its’ 100-plus minutes, it truly doesn’t. Aside from a less-than-stellar culmination of events, I’d positively recommend this to any viewer willing to invest some time into it, but don’t look for the laughs, as you won’t find them, but soak in the sentiment. Supposedly, Kumiko was based upon a true story of a Japanese woman, who in 2001, followed the path from her home overseas to America for the same grasp of what wasn’t there, and it just goes to show you, as much as fantasy can reel you in, you’ve got to be able to grasp onto that vine of verity to haul yourself back out.