Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac — movie review
Posted on September 5, 2011 by Chris Nelson
Kris and I haven’t seen too many flicks worth reviewing lately, and to be completely honest, this film probably doesn’t fit the bill either. Still, I’m guessing a few of our readers might be interested in Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac…if for nothing more than its attractive cast.
Based on an American teen-novel by Gabrielle Zebin, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac tells the tale of Naomi (Maki Horikita), an average, everyday high-school student who suffers a concussion while attempting to catch her fumbled camera over a cement staircase. The impact renders her unconscious, clearing her memory of the past four years — save for a half-remembered kiss, stolen by a faceless student, just before her fall.
When she comes to, she greeted by Yuji (Kenichi Matsuyama), a mysterious and handsome older boy, who accompanied her to the hospital. He admits his heretofore unspoken attraction to her before disappearing into the night. This starts Naomi thinking. Who was this boy? What was it about her that he was drawn to? Who exactly was the Naomi that everyone knew? What was her relationship with her boyfriend? And if she doesn’t remember the past four years, does it mean she still has to adhere to the persona she already established? Thus starts Naomi’s journey of teenage self discovery, as she seeks out new interests, abandons old ones, and attempts to discover the identity of her mysterious kiss. **
As you can probably tell, Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac definitely has the teen-Twilight demographic in mind. The tale of an everyday girl searching for her own, unique identity, while being courted by no less than three handsome males…it’s female fiction catnip. And, I’ll admit, there are some decent life lessons presented (be true to yourself, try things before dismissing them, etc.), but on the whole the narrative leaves a lot to be desired. Naomi’s experiences come across as painfully contrived (see: her role in Hamlet, her photo project), her desires inexplicable (no tennis! NO!) – unless you attribute it all to fickle teenage interests.
Acting is another place where the film suffers. There’s little to no chemistry between any of the pairings, largely due to the robotic performance of Horikita. Now, I must say up front that was totally impressed with her stone-cold femme-fatale in Into the White Night, but she delivers the exact same performance here. Amnesiac made me realize that the ice queen I found her to be in White Night wasn’t because of any stellar acting skill, but because of Horikita’s embarrassingly limited range of emotion (Her English skills, however, I will give mad props to).
Kenichi Matsuyama doesn’t fare all that well either, but not for lack of trying. He’s largely relegated to the sidelines in the film, popping up occasionally to make a strange quip, and to provide the superficial impression of mental imbalance his cardboard character demands. American actor, Anton Yelchin does an okay job with his material (apparently he’s a teen heart-throb here), but his lines are largely comprised of “Baby, do you want to have sex? Okay, so how about tennis?”. It’s ends up being a pretty painful affair, where it could have been amusingly naïve.
All in all, I can’t recommend Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac at all. The film’s competently shot, but both the story, and the acting are sub-par, especially given the talent involved. I hear the book was a bit more complex (I hear there are whole plot threads cut out. For instance, Naomi’s turbulent relationship with her mother. In the film, the mother’s just dead), but I’d imagine the simplifications will leave its fans disappointed. If you must watch it, watch it for the eye candy. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.
** Now, this all sounds pretty straightforward, but I’m enhancing things a bit. The mystery of the kiss is integral, but it is established sloppily, and the story doesn’t really explain that a mystery even existed until close to the end of the film. I tell it to you up front, so you might have a better enjoyment of the unfolding narrative than I did.
Kris and my guest appearance on the VCinema Show reviewing Detroit Metal City. Kris gives insight into why Matsuyama’s an actor to watch.