Memoirs of a Geisha


Memoirs of a Geisha

Critics 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.



Total Count: 163


Audience Score

User Ratings: 464,825
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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.


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 Matron
Koji Toyoda
as Male Hairdresser
Nobu Matsuhisa
as Kimono Artist
Steve Terada
as Boy on Bike
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Critic Reviews for Memoirs of a Geisha

All Critics (163) | Top Critics (41) | Fresh (57) | Rotten (106)

  • Trying too hard to grab our attention, [Marshall] loses it. The art of the geisha prizes subtlety, stillness, grace. Why doesn't this movie?

    Mar 31, 2008 | Full Review…

    David Ansen

    Top Critic
  • 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.

    Jan 18, 2006

    Andrew Sarris

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

    Dec 27, 2005 | Full Review…
  • Ultimately, Memoirs of a Geisha compares unfavorably with the book, though it offers pleasures of its own.

    Dec 27, 2005 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • ... a fascinating glimpse at a lost world of women with skin of porcelain and spines of steel, and the men in their thrall.

    Dec 27, 2005 | Rating: 3/5
  • ... 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.

    Dec 27, 2005 | Rating: 1/4

Audience Reviews for Memoirs of a Geisha

  • Jul 15, 2014
    Trippy how a Chinese woman is playing Japanese, but hey, Zhang Ziyi, that kind of profiling is what you get when you have Americans make a film like this. Between the American jazz dancers of "Chicago" and the Italian crooners of "Nine", Rob Marshall paid a visit to Japan, and even there, all he did was see about their dancing industry, so he really is a "gaysha". Seriously though, this film is a fairly different project for Marshall, although, more than that, it is way different from its predecessor. I was surprised enough to find that it took them just shy of a year to get this sequel enough, but this is hardly anything like "Diary of a Mad Black Woman", partly because geishas try to make themselves as white as possible, and largely because this film is actually good melodrama. Well, if Rotten Tomatoes could say nothing else about this film, it was that it's still better than its predecessor, yet "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" and this film remain startlingly popular, despite critical reception (Who would have thunk that we film critics wouldn't have had that big of an impact on general public opinion?). Sure, it got as many Oscars as any film of 2005, but just about every film that won something tied for most Oscar wins that year, which is bogus, because "Brokeback Mountain" was robbed of that tie-breaking Best Picture win. Yeah, I prefer "Memoirs of the Gaysha" (Making that just once was more than enough, but forget y'all, I just had to), although this film is better than many are saying, which isn't to say that I don't subscribe to many of the complaints. To be a conceptual pseudo-epic whose interpretation is ultimately rather lacking in nuance, this film's runtime of just shy of two-and-a-half hours tends to outstay its welcome with various forms of excess in storytelling, at least enough to cause certain shifts in focus to jar, due to overdrawn focus on individual segments. Really, I don't know if dragging is a tremendous issue, so, at the very least, the film is limp enough with its structuring to feel rather repetitious in its wandering along a path which is surprisingly lacking in scope, and a little less surprisingly a touch too familiar. Well, actually, there is a potential for freshness that is sometimes well-explored, but when originality lapses, conventions fall in, and heavily, coming with generic dialogue and characterization, and a formulaic narrative that feels all the more predictable when storytelling takes melodramatic tropes. The film portrays a very romantic time and subculture, and the story itself actually thrives on melodramatics, so histrionics are typically, perhaps even primarily forgivable, but not exactly consistently so, for there are some glaring superficialities to dramatics, as surely as there are certain superficialities to the fleshing out of depths to this melodrama. With all of my complaints about dragging, the big issue with this potentially piercing drama is undercooking, for storytelling often grazes over exposition and subdues a sense of scale and nuance would should keep consistent in this pseudo-epic and heavily layered plot, resulting in natural dramatic shortcomings that shouldn't stand in the story concept, and make other missteps harder to ignore. Sure, the issues beyond a lack of nuance are not quite as severe as I and other critics might lead one to believe, but they do still stand prominent enough to play their part in holding the final product back. Shy of rewarding, like many are saying, however, it is not, because no matter how problematic, the film engages the dramatically and, of course, aesthetically willing. This film's sort of western interpretation of East Asia musical sensibilities makes for a score that isn't exactly original by its own right, but very unique for the great John Williams, whose already distinguished tastes mix with the beauty of classical styles befitting the culture embraced here in order to craft a richly diverse and captivating soundtrack that consistently livens things up, and often resonates. Dion Beebe's Oscar-winning cinematography, with its seamless alternations between the rugged grit and subtle richness which both characterize classic Japanese film visual styles, is also lovely by its own right, as well as supplementary to the selling of this film's world, although that might simply be because it draws your eyes to outstanding art direction by Patrick M. Sullivan which celebrates the immersively diverse and utterly stunning tastes of production designer John Myhre and costume designer Colleen Atwood as artistically remarkable. Musically, visually, technically and all around stylistically, the film is about as outstanding as you've been told by the critics who at least give the film credit for its aesthetic quality, in spite of their deconstruction of storytelling which doesn't exactly do its subject matter all that much justice. A portrait on the struggles of a Japanese woman of great style and equally great misfortune during Japan's important transition into the mid-20th century, this story concept finds itself thoroughly underexplored by a script that is minimalist in scale, yet still thin in nuance, and yet, potential still stands. This potential's betrayal has left many to be underwhelmed, but for me, although there is something lacking here, storytelling has its fair share of strengths, with Rob Marshall, as director, delivering the most by challenging many of the slow spells with frequent color, and challenging many histrionics with a genuine tastefulness to dramatics which never allows heart to abate, and often truly touches. The combination of entertainment value and resonance to Marshall's direction carries the final product far enough beyond the shortcomings in Robin Swicord's script to compel, but if that isn't enough, Marshall also gets some pretty solid performances out of a talented cast, with the lovely Zhang Ziyi being most effective in a subtle and graceful leading performance whose emotional immersion and delicate layerings result in nuances greater than those featured in writing. This film could have been so much more than it ultimately is, and yet, with that said, I still find the final product rewarding, with enough realization to style and substance to entertain and compel time and again, maybe as much as it can. Bottom line, the film gets to be a little uneven and repetitious with its dragging, as well as a little too formulaic and melodramatic at times, though not as much as it gets to be lacking in nuance, enough to hold the final product back, and yet, entertainment value goes anchored by strong scoring and cinematography, and outstanding art direction, while a solid story concept is fulfilled enough by genuine direction and acting to fully secure "Memoirs of a Geisha" as an aesthetically satisfying and generally compelling tribute to the glamor and struggles of womanhood in 20th century Japan. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Aug 17, 2012
    Pseudo-artistic biopic in the style of Western Cinema: Has some memorable moments, but it's not artistic at all, Asian Fusion did not work in this film, despite the well representation of Japan during the second world war.
    Sylvester K Super Reviewer
  • Apr 07, 2012
    Though the plot may not be that satisfying and though it is very predictable, I must say that Memoirs of a Geisha is an important film about the ancient Japanese culture, beauty, romance, and love.
    Maymay A Super Reviewer
  • Aug 13, 2011
    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.
    Alex r Super Reviewer

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