George Santayana once said that family is one of nature’s masterpieces. Personally I prefer the words of Friedrich Nietzsche. He claimed that family is like bad wallpaper; messy, clinging, and of an annoying and repetitive pattern. Whichever way you look at it, family is family, you can choose your friends but the rest is more or less a matter of bad timing. In his first film, writer/director Daihachi Yoshida introduces us to one of cinema’s most dysfunctional families. Eriko Sato (Cutey Honey) and Aimi Satsukawa star as warring siblings in the 2007 Japanese comedy drama Funuke Show Some Love, You Losers!
Kyomi (Aimi Satsukawa) has a problem with cats, though to be fair she does have a really good reason. One sunny day she watches in horror as her parents are killed trying to save a black cat from oncoming traffic. Kyomi’s older sister comes home for the funeral, which causes tension within an already unstable family unit. Sumika (Eriko Sato) left town to follow her dream of becoming a famous actress, the only problem being, nobody had the balls to tell her she wasn’t any good at it. She certainly has the looks, but the same can’t be said for genuine acting ability.
Her father tried to tell her it would come to nothing when she first asked for financial support, so she attacked him with a knife. Luckily for him she’s none too hot with kitchen utensils either. Unfortunately for stepbrother Shinji, her follow through is quite extraordinary, inadvertently stabbing him in the head instead. It soon emerges that Sumika’s fresh faced sister isn’t all sweetness and bubblegum either.
Kyomi is an up and coming manga artist and her stories about a near psychotic, busty wannabe actress willing to do anything – including prostitution – to become famous is making waves of titanic proportions in the comic book world. She wins a local competition and soon enough everybody in town is aware of her sisters shady, somewhat exaggerated past. Which means hello to family shame and goodbye to wannabe starlet Sumika. When the money runs out she returns home to claim her inheritance.
Funuke certainly won’t appeal to everybody and the trail of dark humour trickling from its veins proves a bleak selling point. Sumika is not the most likeable protagonist but credit to Sato for managing to evoke sympathy from a role that doesn’t deserve any. She’s a horrible person after all, but Eriko finds the right balance between hateful and pitiful, aided by the knowledge that most of the other characters have emotional defects too (Shinji’s new wife Machiko proving the only exception). She plays her part like a lovesick puppy and no matter what anybody does or says to her, she always finds a little something to smile about. She’s not very bright, but her optimistic outlook is a shining light on the blackest of nights.
The volatile insults Shinji throws at his doting wife might not drown him in viewer sympathy, and the feelings he conceals for hate-filled Sumika only serve to make him less likeable, but Masatoshi manages to create a character so pathetic, so undeniably rubbish that it’s hard not to love him a little. The same can be said for all of the characters here, they bring with them a vulnerability that is both instantly appealing and effortlessly engaging. Direction is solid throughout and any doubts about the generous running time are laid to rest with flourishes of style and verve. One moment in particular – involving comic book panels – is impeccably timed.
A humorous movie, but not in a laugh out loud kind of way, you’ll have to dig deep to keep the spark of interest alive. The fact that most of the characters are damaged goods means that it’s hard to make a connection. That said, Funuke brings with it an air of freshness that could well be its saving grace. Performances are strong, direction is solid, and the dysfunctional storyline is deliriously entertaining. Show some love, why don’t you? AW