Starring: Keiko Kitagawa, Osamu Mukai, Yusuke Yamamoto
Director: Takehiko Shinjo
Running Time: 116 mins
Paradise Kiss is a Japanese film about a frustrated high school student who comes across a group of passionate design students, and is brought into their world as she discovers an innate talent for modelling.
Without a doubt, this film is an elegant and visually vibrant piece, emulating its fashion and design themes perfectly, and as such proving rather striking throughout. However, what it has in great visuals it lacks in real story depth and intrigue, with a rather frustrating and generic high school story making for an ultimately disappointing watch that doesn’t equal the film’s excellent look.
But before we get into that, let’s talk about why the film does look so good. Of course, you’d expect a movie that centres on a group of fashion and design students to have some good aesthetics, and that’s exactly the case here, with a clear focus taken on bringing the characters’ artistic talents to life on the big screen.
The good thing about Paradise Kiss, however, is that it doesn’t go overboard with presenting the glitz and glamour of the fashion world, something that has led films like The Devil Wears Prada into rather stale and empty-looking territory. Instead, by focusing on a group of designers with somewhat more unorthodox tastes, the film’s visuals feel very fresh, and the cinematography combines a whole range of dazzling colours with more realistic, earthy tones throughout to give the movie that striking appearance.
As a result, I was pretty enticed by this film from the start, expecting a story with the energy and elegance to match the visuals, however I was ultimately disappointed.
That’s not to say that Paradise Kiss is a completely empty and dull film, just that its story doesn’t have the real intrigue or energy to fully engross you, in the end leaving the visuals alone to grab your attention, which just isn’t all that impressive.
The big problem is that the story doesn’t have the originality to prove particularly intriguing, nor the character depth to provide any strong drama throughout. With the exception of the opening act that focuses on the frustrations of a burnt-out high school student who finds an opportunity to free and express herself, the majority of the film paints each of the characters as fairly simplistic personas defined as either a hip, arty type, or a stuck-up traditionalist getting in their way.
It’s a very simplistic contrast that doesn’t allow for much true dramatic conflict, and that’s why the film ultimately descends into very generic territory, doing little to really grab my attention and proving a frustrating watch throughout, which is why I’m giving Paradise Kiss a 6.6 overall.