LINDA LINDA LINDA
Directed by Nobuhiro Yamashita (2005), 114 minutes
Having just had a week filled with watching two Shakespearean tragedies, I was ready to be uplifted and found the perfect answer in Nobuhiro Yamashitas Linda Linda Linda. It is not only a feel-good movie, it is a feel-great movie that had the audience dancing in the aisles (figuratively, if not literally). Yamashita has managed to put together not only one of the best rock films but also one of the most truly honest films I have seen about what life is like for teenagers. It also has a very infectious song, Linda Linda Linda, arranged by former Smashing Pumpkin James Iha that will roll around forever inside your brain. The songs are not lip-synched but are actually performed by the talented actress musicians.
The plot is simple and can be summarized in a paragraph or two but the strength of the film is not in its story but in its quirky humor, natural conversations, great music, and the small moments that convey the roller coaster existence of high school life. Four girls attending Shibazaki High School in Japan want to compete at the annual Holly Rock Festival but things are not going their way. With less than three days before the competition, Moe (Shione Yukawa), the lead guitarist, has just broken two fingers in an accident and is unable to play. Two members, Kei (Yu Kashii) and Rinko (Takaya Mimura) have had a falling out and are not on speaking terms.
Kei (Yu Kashii) and Rinko (Takaya Mimura) have had a falling out over Rinkos attempt to recruit a boy to play in the band and are not on speaking terms. A patchwork solution is proposed where Kei decides to be the guitarist while Kyoko (Aki Maeda) moves to drums and Nozomi (Shiori Sekine) plays the bass. All that is left is to find a singer and a song, no small task. With days left to prepare, the girls agree to choose the first person who walks in the corridor in front of them. Since the first person was a boy, they decide to pass. They also pass on Rinko, a vocalist they used in a former band.
Since Rinko doesnt want to sing the song theyve chosen, they pick the next girl walking by, a Korean exchange student named Son (Bae Du-na) who agrees to sing but without much knowledge of Japanese, rehearsals are a struggle to communicate. Calling themselves the Paran Maum, the girls have to sneak around the school and rehearse at night, often falling asleep on the floor. The pace of the film is slow and the girls face challenges but they are real life events, not movie problems. Kyoko is attracted to Kazuya (Katsuya Kobayashi) but needs to find the confidence to let him know. Kei must learn to work within the confines of a group and give up some control and Son has to become comfortable enough with the language to perform.
While the story may sound like a teenage soap opera, Linda Linda Linda stays away from clich and the film is without contrived plot twists or dramatic confrontations with parents (who are mostly non-existent in the film). Along the way, however, there are some very endearing moments. One is Sons attempt to enter a karaoke club without buying a drink and her back and forth conversation with the attendant borders on the painfully hilarious. Another great scene is when a young boy tries to communicate in broken Korean to Son that he loves her but there is more than a language barrier. The acting in Linda Linda Linda is uniformly excellent, especially the performance of Bae Du-na who moves from being shy and inarticulate to front and center stage and sweeps you away with her great smile. The ending of the film is so perfect that I dare not give it away except to say that the feeling the film leaves you with is one of pure and simple joy.