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Fine, Totally Fine
Fine Totally Fine

Yoshinari Okada (left) and YoshiYoshi Arakawa (right)
fight for the affection of Yoshino Kimura (center) in Fine, Totally Fine
.

Japanese: 全然大丈夫
Year: 2008  
Director:

Yosuke Fujita

 
  Writer:

Yosuke Fujita

  Cast:

YoshiYoshi Arakawa, Yoshino Kimura, Yoshinori Okada, Naoki Tanaka, Kitaro, Seminosuke Murasugi, Ichiro Ogura, Toshie Negishi, Kayoko Shiraishi, Keizo Kanie

  The Skinny: A delightful comedy that charms in a uniquely low-key way, Fine, Totally Fine is the perfect mix of crude humor and naturalistic everyday life. Highly recommended.
   
Review
by
Kevin Ma:

Surreal humor is brilliantly blended into ordinary everyday life in the indie comedy Fine, Totally Fine, the low-key feature debut by writer/director Yosuke Fujita. The story of three eccentric characters and their intertwining lives in the Tokyo suburbs, the film features impeccable comedic timing, flawed-but-likable characters, and sometimes surprisingly crude humor that all come together to make this one of the most delightful Japanese comedies in years.

Fine, Totally Fine sports comedian/usual supporting player Yoshiyoshi Arakawa in his first leading role. He plays Teruo, a park-employed tree trimmer who still lives at home, above a family-owned second-hand bookstore while his father is slowly suffering a mental breakdown. Aspiring to build a truly scary haunted house, Teruo fills his room with homemade grotesque figures of himself that often provide some of the biggest laughs (and sometimes shocks) of the film.

Teruo's sometimes-collaborator is lifelong friend Hisanobu (Yoshinori Okada), a hospital administrator who has little backbone, andoften plays the nice guy at work. Hisanobu inexplicably hires Akari (Yoshino Kimura), an outcast who is so clumsy that she can't even open a box of tissue properly. Despite her many little accidents - one involving an elevator button will likely inspire an equal amount of groans and laughter - Hisanobu sees a certain charm in Akari and falls for her. However, the biggest obstacle standing in his way is Teruo.

Despite possessing the premise of two best friends after the same girl, Fine, Totally Fine doesn't play out like your typical romantic comedy farce. Fujita has an eye for everyday life, and he injects humor into the film in a quiet manner (even the title keeps to that understated touch). Most directors would present the film's surreal gags with frantic pacing and wacky music, but Fujita gives the film a naturalistic tone. This makes some of the film's more shocking moments even more effective, as the acoustic guitar-driven score and generally relaxed pacing puts the audience at such ease that they might never see those moments coming.

However, Fine, Totally Fine's charm doesn't come from its ability to shock, but rather its ability to delight the audience in such a low-key manner. Despite the central conflict, Fujita sees no need to build things up to a climatic scene, nor does he see a need to give the film an antagonist that serves as a real obstacle to these characters. Instead, the charm of the film slowly creeps up on you along the way. When faced with everything that happens in the film, no matter how shocking or surreal it may seems, people react as if things like this happen everyday.

The charm can also be attributed to the characters. Without the need for villains and manufactured conflict, the film makes every character in the film likable in some way. With his round face and natural lisp, Arakawa is a natural choice for the immature Teruo. His innocent demeanor and almost childish obsession with scaring people make those grotesque figures of him all the funnier. Okada is also naturally likable as Hisanobu, though his character lacks any standout moments because of his nice guy nature.

Meanwhile, Yoshino Kimura plays down her natural beauty as the clumsy outcast Akari and carries an adorable awkwardness that shows why the two men would be after her. In fact, even though neither of the men really deserves Akari, you hope for both of them to win, and her final choice feels just as natural as the film itself. If Fujita's direction sets the tone and the humor of the film, then his three lead performances give it the heart and soul.

Fine, Totally Fine is a unique comedy; while it features crude humor that can be found in mainstream comedies, the film presents its comedy in a subtly realistic style. There are few flaws in Fujita's film, from the performances to the script to even the easygoing score, as everything comes together in an earnest manner without contrivances. Best of all, it succeeds without any emotional manipulation or annoyingly over-the-top performances. Fine, Totally Fine is easily topping my list for the best comedies of 2008. It's good, totally good. (Kevin Ma, 2008)

   
 

image courtesy of the Udine Far East Film Festival

   
 
 
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