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.