The Ramen Girl
An American woman is stranded in Tokyo after breaking up with her boyfriend. Searching for direction in life, she trains to be a ramen chef under a tyrannical Japanese Ramen master.
This film proves that a low budget doesn't mean low quality. Brittany Murphy's Abby has no direction, her boyfriend has abandoned her in Tokyo, and she doesn't know what she wants to do with her life after college.
Following on from other films about Japanese culture, like Lost in Translation, Japanese Story and even The Karate Kid, there is a little self-mocking and not a lot of subtlety in the depiction of the Japanese people and their culture. But there is humour and warmth as the characters' personalities unfold.
When Abby meets the local Ramen Nazi, Maezumi, a character played wonderfully by Toshiyuki Nishida, the comedy steps up a pace. The relationship between these two is touching, frustrating, heartfelt and tormenting. Let's face it the plot has an American girl who can't speak a word of Japanese apprenticing to a Japanese man who can't speak a word of English. Humour abounds.
Try as she might Abby can't get her ramen to have the missing ingredient, the damashi or tamashi, but it's fun watching her try and watching the relationship develop between two good actors. The metaphor, I think, is that even if all the ingredients are correct, if there is no passion or emotion, the end product will be bland. Which has been Abby's life up until this point.
Ah, yes, I have a soft spot for Brittany Murphy, an under-rated actor who died before her time. It was great to watch her with a good script and an actor of the calibre of Nishida to bounce off. Similar to her character in Girl Interrupted, Abby is fully developed and her situation is overwhelming at times.
If you have nothing to do one night, you could do a lot worse than watch the ramen girl. Enjoy it as you would a good bowl of ramen, a little food for the soul.