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Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)



Average Rating: 5.4/10
Reviews Counted: 158
Fresh: 56 | Rotten: 102

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.


Average Rating: 5.3/10
Critic Reviews: 40
Fresh: 13 | Rotten: 27

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.



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Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 463,954

My Rating

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.


Drama, Romance

Robin Swicord, Doug Wright

Mar 28, 2006


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All Critics (173) | Top Critics (45) | Fresh (56) | Rotten (102) | DVD (24)

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 IconTop Critic

Memoirs of a Geisha is everything you'd expect it to be: beautiful, mesmerizing, tasteful, Japanese. It's just not very hot.

December 27, 2005 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
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Ultimately, Memoirs of a Geisha compares unfavorably with the book, though it offers pleasures of its own.

December 27, 2005 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
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... a fascinating glimpse at a lost world of women with skin of porcelain and spines of steel, and the men in their thrall.

December 27, 2005 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
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... the movie is a well-meaning, vaporous bore, enlivened only by occasional traces of Showgirls-style camp and plasticine tears trickling down impeccably powdered cheeks.

December 27, 2005 Full Review Source: Miami Herald
Miami Herald
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It is a lush, blushingly romantic portrait of Asian culture as seen through a Western lens.

December 27, 2005 Full Review Source: Houston Chronicle
Houston Chronicle
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Titanic fraudulence

August 30, 2009 Full Review Source: CinePassion | Comment (1)

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

July 30, 2009 Full Review Source: Screenwize

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

July 29, 2009 Full Review Source: CNNRadio | Comment (1)

Director Rob Marshall has a sophomore flop on his hands.

April 26, 2007 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide
Apollo Guide

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

March 1, 2007 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

full review in Greek

October 3, 2006 Full Review Source: Movies for the Masses
Movies for the Masses

The overall effect is not so unlike Mameha's description of geisha themselves: a moving work of art.

September 27, 2006
Christianity Today

As authentic as cheeseburger teriyaki.

May 4, 2006 Full Review Source:

...the film's achievements lie mostly on the surface, rather than underneath it.

February 21, 2006 Full Review
Denton Record Chronicle (TX)

A beautiful-looking film with an ugly little fantasy at its heart.

February 13, 2006 Full Review Source: Laramie Movie Scope
Laramie Movie Scope

Não é apenas seu falso moralismo que o compromete; como centro de sua narrativa, o longa traz uma historinha de amor artificial carregada de diálogos cafonas e melodramáticos.

February 2, 2006
Cinema em Cena

Cinematographer Dione Beebe ... fills the screen with lavish images that constantly amaze the senses.

January 19, 2006

Marshall's approach is simultaneously accessible and exotic, a breathtaking introduction that exposes without spoiling a world of carefully guarded mystery.

January 17, 2006 Full Review Source: Premiere Magazine
Premiere Magazine

The greatest achievement of author Golden and director Marshall is their delicate capturing of the viciousness of women among women.

January 16, 2006 Full Review Source: Cinerina

Rutinaria adaptación de un best-seller sobre temática exótica, con lujos de fotografía, vestuario, dirección de arte y hasta música que no disimulan un argumento cursi y previsible.

January 16, 2006 Full Review Source: Uruguay Total
Uruguay Total

Stunning to look at, Memoirs of a Geisha is worth seeing for the lush visuals alone. The accents and culture clashes may grate, but the insight into this world, where men can be brought to their knees with a single glance, is mesmerising.

January 16, 2006 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

Marshall's film is plucked from the era it represents, the 1930's, and shoved into our cinema schedules in the hopes of earning its creator another slice of awards success.

January 15, 2006 Full Review Source: FilmFocus

Gorgeous to look at but curiously uninvolving and occasionally irritating, this is ultimately something of a disappointment despite strong performances.

January 12, 2006 Full Review Source: ViewLondon

Even though the novel is one of my favorites; the movie did not leave me disappointed. It left me wanting more, but I didn't walk out dissatisfied with what I was given.

January 11, 2006 Full Review Source: Juicy Cerebellum
Juicy Cerebellum

Audience Reviews for Memoirs of a Geisha

The visuals and technical aspects are indeed splendid; but the problematic 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 its pathetic, melodramatic last half-hour.
August 4, 2013

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.
May 18, 2013

Super Reviewer

Gorgeous movie.
January 19, 2012
Letitia Lew

Super Reviewer

Having read the book, I found that the film version of Memoirs of a Geisha was a near flawless film with an incredible story. This film is the perfect example of a love story done right. I felt that the characters truly felt something for each other and the chemistry between Ken Wantanabe and Ziyi Zhang was believable. Unlike most romance films, you feel that emotions between the two characters are real and don't feel corny. Memoirs of a Geisha is a terrific, well acted film. Probably the only weak point of the film is the casting of two Chinese actresses in the role of the leads, Michelle Yeoh and Ziyi Zhang. I thought that this film should have had an all Japanese cast, but unfortunately, it didn't. Despite this small flaw, Memoirs of a Geisha is a stunning film that is beautifully acted, directed and told. Not only that, but the film looks stunning. A beautiful film that I believe is one of the best Romance films of the last ten years. This is better than most romance films in my opinion because I felt the characters in the film had genuine emotions going on. This is a near flawless picture that will stay with you long after you've seen it. Rob Marshall has crafted a beautiful film that has incredible performances and this is overall a solid piece of film.
August 14, 2011
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

    1. Sayuri: I am not worthless!
    – Submitted by Alyssa B (4 months ago)
    1. 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 (6 months ago)
    1. 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 (13 months ago)
    1. 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 (13 months ago)
    1. Mameha: You cannot call yourself a true geisha until you can stop a man in his tracks with a single look.
    – Submitted by Despina P (22 months ago)
    1. Sayuri: Can't you see? Every step I have taken... since I was that little girl on the bridge... was to bring myself closer to you.
    – Submitted by Courtney E (2 years ago)
View all quotes (30)

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