The press notes for Linda Linda Linda suggest a foreign regurgitation of stale conventions from the American teenage flick. Given that, it’s difficult to not expect something of a J-pop remake of Bring It On that substitutes an all-girl cover band for sexed-up cheerleaders. Certainly a case of inappropriate advertising, this purported image inadvertently makes the work itself even more of a surprise—an emotionally attuned look at adolescent life amid the invisible social structures of high school with an underlying emphasis on gender and cultural barriers to boot, all surprisingly free of manipulation. After the performance-inhibiting injury suffered by a former bandmate, a newly assembled foursome of female students must learn a new playlist for the upcoming school festival—a difficult task even when weighed apart from their daily rigors and mandatory doses of high school drama. Linda Linda Linda‘s moderate adherence to formula is its one truly limiting quality, but even the traditional plotting tactics feel rather subdued and almost natural as a result of the sensitive evocation of time and place, which suggests a life essence to these characters that extends in all directions beyond the time constraints of the film. Director Yamashita has a knack for effective compositions that contrast static foregrounds with active backgrounds—or vice versa—while the understated, geometric framing devices give the characters much-desired room to breathe. There’s nothing revelatory here, but the film’s earnest indulgences are indeed refreshing, as are its often hilarious throwaway scenes (the funniest of which sees Son, the Korean exchange student recruited as the band’s new singer, attempting to overcome her language difficulties in a restaurant where only paying customers are allowed to use the restrooms). More than anything, the film exhorts a sense of nostalgia for the stressful trials of youth that, while often seemingly insurmountable at the time, are so laced with freewheeling joy as to be missed dearly once they’ve departed (take that, Clerks II!).
- Viz Pictures
- 114 min
- Nobuhiro Yamashita
- Kôsuke Mukai, Wakako Miyashita, Nobuhiro Yamashita
- Du-na Bae, Aki Maeda, Yu Kashii, Shiori Sekine, Takayo Mimura, Shione Yukawa, Yuko Yamazaki, Masahiro Komoto, Ken'ichi Matsuyama, Katsuya Kobayashi
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