Memoirs of a Geisha
Entertainment: +2 1/2
Acceptability: +1

Based on the novel by Arthur Golden, this drama set in pre-World War II times, reveals the harsh realities of what appears to be a glamorous life for beautiful, young Japanese women. A terrified nine-year-old girl (Ziyi Zhang) is torn from the protection of her destitute parents and sold as a servant to a geisha establishment. As she blossoms into a beautiful teenager, Sayuri (Suzuka Ohgo) is trained to be a geisha, not by selling her body but by entertaining through conversation, dancing and music. Sayuris heart belongs to a wealthy businessman (Ken Watanabe) who befriended her when she was a little girl. As others clamor for her attention, he remains aloof and seemingly unaware of their prior meeting. Competition among the girls is brutal, and Hatsumono (Gong Li) sees Sayuri as a threat to her stardom. Gorgeous photography compensates for the sometimes confusing plot that may frustrate viewers who have not read the book.

The geisha subculture, while cloaked in mystery, is not what the Western world would classify as an escort service. Until a girl has a following of admirers who pay top dollar for her time, a geishas most prized possession is her innocence. Then a client may bid on her to be his constant companion, much like a mistress. Sayuri breaks all records as two wealthy men vie for her. The girls are like pawns, used by both the establishment and their clients. Betrayals, beatings, lying and ruthless business deals are constant. Violence includes cruel treatment of young girls and a horrific fire that destroys the geisha quarters. After the geisha community has evaporated, a former admirer asks Sayuri to use her geisha skills to influence an American colonel to invest in his business. She agrees to have sex with the colonel, but they are interrupted, and there is no nudity. Memoirs of a Geisha is a dark, intense film, but it does not glamorize the geisha lifestyle and can be recommended for adults.

Preview Reviewer: Mary Draughon
Distributor: Sony Pictures

Crude Language: Once moderate (bastard 1)
Obscene Language: None
Profanity: None
Violence: Many times moderate (young girls slapped and beaten with whips, girl cuts herself for excuse to go to doctor to whom shes attracted, girl slips and falls from roof as she tries to escape, man removes kimono from girl and strikes her when she resists, fire destroys building )
Sexual Intercourse: Once mild (couple attempting sex is interrupted, and no nudity is shown)
Nudity: Few times mild (implied upper nudity when man removes womans kimono by force, bare shoulders of soldiers and Japanese women in public steam bath imply nudity)
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: Few times (references to girls virginity, U.S troops make passes at Japanese women, soldiers shown in public bath with Japanese women)
Drug Abuse: Few times mild (social drinking in clubs)
Other: Japanese geisha tradition portrayed in negative light, heartbreaking separation of girl from family
Running Time: 145 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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