Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)

TOMATOMETER

AUDIENCE SCORE

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.

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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.
Rating:
PG-13 (for mature subject matter and some sexual content)
Genre:
Drama , Romance
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 wide
On DVD:
Box Office:
$57,000,000.00
Runtime:
Studio:

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Cast

Michelle Yeoh
as Mameha
Li Gong
as Hatsumomo
Youki Kudoh
as Pumpkin
Kaori Momoi
as Mother
Ziyi Zhang
as Sayuri
Zoe Weizenbaum
as Young Pumpkin
Ken Watanabe
as Chairman
Mako
as Sakamoto
Kenneth Tsang
as The General
Tsai Chin
as Auntie
Togo Igawa
as Tanaka
Randall Duk Kim
as Dr. Crab
Yôko Narahashi
as Mameha's Maid
Karl Yune
as Koichi
Shizuko Hoshi
as Sayuri Narrator
Suzuka Ohgo
as Young Chiyo
Elizabeth Sung
as Sakamoto's Wife
Steve Terada
as Boy on Bike
Natsuo Tomita
as Geisha in Lavender
Thomas Ikeda
as Mr. Bekku
Navia Nguyen
as Geisha in Green
Nobu Matsuhisa
as Kimono Artist
David Okihiro
as Shamisen Teacher
Miyako Tachibana
as Dance Teacher
Fumi Akutagawa
as Yukimoto Teahouse Matron
Koji Toyoda
as Male Hairdresser
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News & Interviews for Memoirs of a Geisha

Critic Reviews for Memoirs of a Geisha

All Critics (158) | Top Critics (40)

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

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

Full Review… | December 27, 2005
Washington Post
Top Critic

Ultimately, Memoirs of a Geisha compares unfavorably with the book, though it offers pleasures of its own.

Full Review… | December 27, 2005
Seattle Times
Top Critic

... a fascinating glimpse at a lost world of women with skin of porcelain and spines of steel, and the men in their thrall.

Full Review… | December 27, 2005
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

... 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
Miami Herald
Top Critic

It is a lush, blushingly romantic portrait of Asian culture as seen through a Western lens.

Full Review… | December 27, 2005
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Memoirs of a Geisha

½

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
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

½

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.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

Gorgeous movie.

Letitia Lew
Letitia Lew

Super Reviewer

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