Ping Pong Bath Station
"Recommended highly for people who are not afraid to grin like idiots while watching a film."
Ping Pong Bath Station (1998)
AKA: Takkyu Onsen
Director: Gen Yamakawa
Producer: Yoichi Arishige, Tetsuya Ikeda, Shoji Masui
Writer: Gen Yamakawa
Cast: So Yamanaka, Keizo Kanie, Yosuke Kubozuka, Riho Makise, Keiko Matsuzaka
Running Time: 110 min.
Plot: A neglected housewife who decides to leave her husband and teenaged son, who seem to have no time for her. In a quest for happiness, she returns to the hot-spring resort where she spent her honeymoon, only to find it struggling for business. Sonoko asserts her independence and finds a purpose in life by creating a ping-pong tournament to save the once-thriving vacation spot.
LEN'S REVIEW: Excellent or superb would not be proper adjectives to describe this film, charming would. Because that's what this film is, sweet and charming. Infact, Ping Pong Bath Station could easily be seen as the cinematic equivalent of anti-depressants. And there's nothing wrong with that.
The radiant Keiko Matsuzaka (whom some might remember from Happiness Of The Katakuris) plays Sonoko, a housewife who gets fed up with her uncaring and unappreciative husband and her teenage son. She spends the days cleaning up the house, doing the dishes and the laundry and cooking up food, day after day after day. Fed up with that shit, she eventually calls a peppy radio talkshow host for advice, who tells her to ditch her family and go enjoy her life. After a moments hesitation, she packs her bags, leaves a note for the husband and drives off.
She eventually ends up at a small town that used to be famous for it's hot springs. After the tourists stopped visiting, life at the town quieted down, causing many to move to bigger cities (like the peppy talkshow host, who left her life behind to move to Tokyo). Sonoko's arrival stirs things up, and soon she turns the life of the town around, bringing back to life the annual ping pong contests the local bath station used to hold. Eventually, the contest brings back alot of people, who all have their reasons for participating. And yes, the ending is very very happy indeed. If you have diabetes, I'd recommend reaching for the insulin.
If I was one of those cynical old bastards that required every film to have some meaningful thoughts about the cruelty and pointlessness of human life, I'd hate this film. I'd hate the way all the characters are kind and caring, I'd hate the predictable, saccharine-sweet ending and I'd undoubtedly hate some of the actors who are basically smiling their way thru the whole film.
But sofar that has not happened to me. Infact, I greatly enjoyed this one. While the story is indeed predictable, it's ridiculous to expect anything else in a feelgood film like this. The actors are all brilliant too, most of them giving great comic performances (especially Keiko Matsuzaka). And despite the viewer knowing from the get-go that everything is going to end up just fine, the finale still manages to be suspenseful and exciting.
Recommended highly for people who are not afraid to grin like idiots while watching a film.
LEN'S RATING: 8/10