Being different just isn’t enough
by Martin Hafer
Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter is based, in very small part, on a story that was circulated after the film Fargo debuted. A Japanese woman reportedly left everything and moved to the Minnesota/Dakota area in an insane search for the treasure that was buried in snow by Steve Buscemi’s character. Apparently, she thought that the film was real and it was speaking to her and urging her to drop everything to find the money. There are two huge problems with this. First, although Fargo says it’s a true story it isn’t, so there’s no treasure. Second, the dead woman found in Minnesota (Takako Konishi) had a life that was nothing like the story of Kumiko. So regardless of what you think of all this, please understand this is all myth.
A film can be based on urban legends and still be compelling. Is this one? To put it bluntly, no. Although the camerawork in this film is wonderful and is clearly the highlight of the film, the plot is very tough to endure. The first portion of the movie consists of Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) staring into space, barely going through the motions at her job, and obsessing over the film Fargo. It’s obvious that the character is both clinically depressed as well as losing contact with reality. But this part of the film lasts half the movie. As a result, it’s painfully slow and could easily have been done in a timelier manner. Because of this, my attention frequently flagged and this would most likely be true for many viewers.
The second half consists of Kumiko stealing her company credit card and heading off to the States without planning it in the least. Armed only with a DVD of Fargo and no winter clothing, she lands in Minnesota (which is very far from Fargo, North Dakota) and wanders about aimlessly. Some folks try to help her, but Kimiko is mentally ill and just keeps wandering off in the freezing snow.
If all of this sounds rather dull, you pretty much understand why I was so unimpressed by the movie. I cannot see many people sitting through the entire film because of its slow pacing and threadbare plot. Plus, finding any sense of meaning behind all this is difficult, if not impossible. The bottom line is that I do love strange, quirky films (many of which are Japanese), this one is just too slow and tedious.