Starring: Juri Ueno, Yûta Hiraoka, Shihori Kanjiya
Director: Shinobu Yaguchi
Running Time: 105 mins
Swing Girls is a Japanese film about a group of unruly high school girls who, whilst attending maths make-up classes in the summer, end up poisoning the entire school brass band, leaving only them to step in and take their place, with no musical experience or talent at all.
This is a film that you’ve really got to get on board with early on, otherwise it’s tough to get back and love it. Whilst its final act is an entertaining conclusion, I was continually frustrated by Swing Girls for the best part of over an hour, given its hugely unlikable main characters. Although the comedy wasn’t particularly stunning, I found it incredibly difficult to enjoy this film right from the start simply because of the ‘protagonists’.
Clearly, the girls are meant to be presented as ungrateful and unruly rebels from the start, and I was willing to accept that. Normally it’s a case of short term pain for long term gain, as we see the characters develop and mature into actually likable people, but that really didn’t happen here for such a long time, leaving me annoyed and frustrated with every person that I had to spend time with here.
The problem is that the girls’ behaviour is so overtly aggressive and rebellious that it shouldn’t have been treated as a more serious part of the story. If they had to be so poorly-behaved, then I think it would have worked a lot better if we were able to laugh at their recklessness, but the fact remains that we spend a good hour watching these girls bully others, act like spoilt brats, and annoy everyone in sight, something that made it effectively impossible for me to support them as the main protagonists.
Whilst the eventual development did kick in in the last act, the damage was already done, and I was too frustrated to really get back on board with watching these girls finally do well. It’s a major problem that’s both down to the actors, who don’t do enough to make their characters more than shells of teenage angst, and the writing, which brings across their development far too slowly, making for a really frustrating watch.
That’s by far the main problem with this movie, because the rest is actually very light-hearted and enjoyable. When we’re not focussing on the girls, there are a few enjoyable gags, whilst the story arc itself is silly and ridiculous enough to laugh at too. It’s not a riotous, laugh-a-minute movie by any means, but you do get the odd chuckle and smile out of some of the lighter things.
Also, the directing’s not too bad either. Although I think the story moves along at far too slow a pace, and director Shinobu Yaguchi makes a good few entertaining scenes, something that shines through particularly well in the final act when the girls’ behaviour is more tolerable, and if you’re really on board with the film, then it can be a properly entertaining watch.
Overall, it may seem like I’m being a bit of a fuddy-duddy, grumpy schoolteacher, but I’m afraid to say that this film was unfortunately lost on me when it failed to provide an likable protagonists. That combined with slow story development made this a very frustrating watch, save for some entertaining, light-hearted moments here and there, and that’s why I’m giving Swing Girls a 6.9.