Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) - Rotten Tomatoes

Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)



Critic Consensus: Less nuanced than its source material, Memoirs of a Geisha may be a lavish production, but it still carries the simplistic air of a soap opera.

Movie Info

In the years before World War II, a Japanese child is torn from her penniless family to work as a maid in a geisha house. Despite a treacherous rival who nearly breaks her spirit, the girl blossoms into the legendary geisha Sayuri. Beautiful and accomplished, Sayuri captivates the most powerful men of her day, but is haunted by her secret love for the one man who is out of her reach.more
Rating: PG-13 (for mature subject matter and some sexual content)
Genre: Drama, Romance
Directed By:
Written By: Robin Swicord
In Theaters:
On DVD: Mar 28, 2006
Box Office: $57.0M
Sony Pictures - Official Site


Ziyi Zhang
as Sayuri
Ken Watanabe
as Chairman
Li Gong
as Hatsumomo
Youki Kudoh
as Pumpkin
Tsai Chin
as Auntie
as Sakamoto
Kenneth Tsang
as The General
Thomas Ikeda
as Mr. Bekku
Zoe Weizenbaum
as Young Pumpkin
Shizuko Hoshi
as Sayuri Narrator
Suzuka Ohgo
as Young Chiyo
Togo Igawa
as Tanaka
Elizabeth Sung
as Sakamoto's Wife
David Okihiro
as Shamisen Teacher
Miyako Tachibana
as Dance Teacher
Karl Yune
as Koichi
Yôko Narahashi
as Mameha's Maid
Navia Nguyen
as Geisha in Green
Natsuo Tomita
as Geisha in Lavender
Fumi Akutagawa
as Yukimoto Teahouse Ma...
Koji Toyoda
as Male Hairdresser
Nobu Matsuhisa
as Kimono Artist
Steve Terada
as Boy on Bike
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Memoirs of a Geisha

Critic Reviews for Memoirs of a Geisha

All Critics (174) | Top Critics (45)

The subject remained interesting enough to this provincial American to accept and ultimately enjoy the film's well-worn romanticism, even with its resignedly tired happy ending.

January 18, 2006
New York Observer
Top Critic

Titanic fraudulence

Full Review… | August 30, 2009

It's lush, stylish and a feast for the eyes and ears rather than the heart and soul.

Full Review… | July 30, 2009

The screenplay was lacking, the characters not engaging, the story dragged on and no real insights on being a geisha. Paul Chambers, CNN.

Full Review… | July 29, 2009

Director Rob Marshall has a sophomore flop on his hands.

Full Review… | April 26, 2007
Apollo Guide

For all of its inaccuracies and over-the-top mise-en-scène, Memoirs is quite entertaining.

Full Review… | March 1, 2007
Film Journal International

Audience Reviews for Memoirs of a Geisha


The visuals and technical aspects are indeed splendid; but the flawed narrative, though enjoyable to follow during most of the time, seems like a cheap soap-opera that even comes up with a ridiculous revelation in a pathetic, melodramatic last half-hour.

Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer


Taking on an immense time period and a form of culture that has never been appropriately touched upon, this film does a lot with the book it's based on, creates a wonderful tapestry of history, culture, and most importantly, shows women as commodities. The story begins with a poor little girl in China, who is sold, along with her sister, to a geisha house in a metropolis. She is disconnected with her family, eventually becomes orphaned, and has to move through societal traverses in order to become a geisha, all just so she can survive. The story is not all about her struggles as a woman in a territorial society. The geisha, Sayuri, is also in love with a Chairman whom she met while in her struggles. She is peaceable, quiet, and contemplative at all times, and though she doesn't grow up as a geisha, she acts the part at all times. Zhang Ziyi's performance as Sayuri speaks on the quietness of women in 1920s China, about the art form that exemplified being a geisha, and the taciturn power women held when they used their sexuality as a form of power. There are struggles for power between geisha houses and the women try to gain agency and yet let themselves slip into oblivion time and again and yet feel like they're climbing the social ladder. While Sayuri simply tries to stay in the game in order to win affection and finally be loved, others remotely care about their future as a possible Madame and their link to a future of exploitation. The geisha culture itself is not always explained in the full way it was in the book, and some of that translation is left to be interpreted through intense cinematography, immense sets, period clothing, and the performances from actresses Gong Li, Michelle Yeoh, and Youki Kudoh. It feels and looks as Japanese as a Western audience can expect, but most of the time it felt belabored, longwinded, and far too Hollywood. A Japanese adaptation would have been more powerful, daring, and ultimately may have accomplished what this film lacked. There wasn't much that is learned about what it is to be a geisha from this film except several parlor tricks. As a film that represents history, many of the customs and elaborations weren't correct, and it relied on baseless events in order to drag the film an extra forty minutes in screen-time that it didn't need. The ending was predictable from almost the beginning of the film, but I enjoyed the sappiness of a good love story. Though the film was criticized for using Chinese actresses for Japanese parts, the performances themselves were interesting, especially Gong Li's. The story though is ultimately tried and true, and though this Americanized, saturated version isn't what I expected, it does do what the audience really wants.

Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

Gorgeous movie.

Letitia Lew
Letitia Lew

Super Reviewer

Memoirs of a Geisha Quotes

Sayuri: I am not worthless!
– Submitted by Alyssa B (24 months ago)
Sayuri Narrator: After all, these are not the memoirs of an empress, nor of a queen. These are memoirs of another kind.
– Submitted by Oscar A (2 years ago)
The Baron: Mameha asked me to show you my kimono collection. It's quite venerated. My grandfather and father collected kimonos. I've given a number of valuable kimonos to Mameha; I like to give presents to beautiful girls.
– Submitted by Christopher B (2 years ago)
Sayuri: The heart dies a slow death. Shedding each hope like leaves, until one day there are none. No hopes. Nothing remains. She paints her face to hide her face, her eyes a deep water; it is not for Geisha to want, it is not for Geisha to feel; Geisha is an artist of the floating world. She dances. She sings. She entertains you - whatever you want. The rest is shadows, the rest is secret.
– Submitted by Christopher B (2 years ago)

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