Popcorn Preview: Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

03/20/2015 08:16 pm ET | Updated May 20, 2015

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter (2014)
Cast includes: Rinko Kikuchi (Pacific Rim), Nobuyuki Datsube (Oboreru Sakana), David Zellner (Kid Thing)
Director: David and Nathan Zellner (Kid Thing)
Genre: Humor | Drama (105 minutes)

We first encounter Kumiko as she walks along the water's edge wearing her oversized red hoodie and carrying a piece of white cloth. Her footprints follow the line of the serf. To her left are the high rock outcroppings that also follow the shape of the shoreline. When she gets to a particular spot, she compares the rock shapes to the embroidered image on the cloth. They match exactly, and Kumiko finds the entrance to a cave. Just inside, there's a large rock, which she moves to one side, revealing treasure. It's an old, dirty and damp VCR tape. (It's the one that played at the beginning of the movie... so badly damaged that we thought the projection equipment needed fixing.) Back home, we see that Kumiko is not nearly as committed to housekeeping as she is to her treasure hunting. She feeds her bunny Bunzo by emptying the last crumbs of his bag of food right on top of his cage. That VCR is going to have to dry out before she can play it.

Monday morning, Kumiko heads off to work in downtown Tokyo. She's one of an army of eager, polite and chipper young Office Ladies who put on their OL uniforms and serve their managers... doing chores like making tea and taking suits to the cleaners. This isn't Kumiko's destiny, is it? Back home, Kumiko and Bunzo share a cup of Ramen noodles, as they watch the tape. It's Fargo, and Kumiko seems to be primarily interested in one scene... it's the one when the William H. Macy character buries treasure in the snow and marks the spot with a red plastic scraper. Damn! It's the phone... "It's your mother. I haven't heard from you in a long time..." Eventually she gets around to what's on her mind. "Are you getting that promotion?" Kumiko says yes. [She lies.] "Are you dating?" "No." Mom's not happy with Kumiko's progress toward her ultimate destiny... finding a boyfriend and getting married. Nor is Kumiko's boss, who feels free to give her advice on how to live her life. Kumiko is 29, after all and she really should have been married by age 26. When her boss hires another OL to help Kumiko, the handwriting is on the wall. Ms. Kanazaki is the new OL and Kumiko's days are numbered.

Anyway, the options of being either an OL or a wife aren't Kumiko's destiny. She's a treasure hunter, after all. And she's just uncovered the best clue of all. A little proactive planning... bye-bye Bunzo... plus a bit of unexpected good luck gives Kumiko what she needs to fulfill her destiny. That scene from Fargo is the focal point of Kumiko's hunt. Speaking almost no English, Kumiko not only gets herself to Fargo but somehow manages to enlist the help of total strangers. At a certain point, we begin to wonder what we are watching. Is it the fulfillment of an improbable fate? Or is she living out the end days of a tragically out-of-touch individual. While she's in Japan, her actions seem cute, albeit rather bizarre. In America, Kumiko seems more bizarre than cute. Rinko Kikuchi as Kumiko walks a fine line between reality and fantasy... sanity and insanity. "You take me to Fargo?" she asks everyone. "I'll take you to the Mall of America. It's a lot more fun."

2 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
A young Japanese Office Lady has the notion that's she's really a treasure hunter

Popcorn Profile
Audience: Young Adults
Gender Style: Neutral
Distribution: Art House
Mood: Sober
Tempo: In No Hurry
Visual Style: Unvarnished Realism
Nutshell: Hunting for improbable treasure
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Pure Entertainment

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