Is it possible to
reset life whenever you want to? This is the basic
idea behind Install, a strange little comedy
about adolescence, innocence, and Internet sex chats.
Install first appeared as a novel by 17-year-old Wataya
Risa, who would eventually win the Akutagawa Award,
the Japanese equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize for
young writers, 2 years later with another novel. With
its subject matter, people may expect some kind of
breakthrough role for young idol Aya Ueto, or a raunchy
comedy. However, Install is a film that isn't
going to meet expectations with its charming innocence.
Instead, the tame nature of the film is compensated
with its dreamy state of being and a certain quirkiness
that only Japanese films can achieve. Patience is
required for those new to Japanese films, but everyone
else may just find a good time somewhere in there.
Directed by TV veteran
Kei Kataoka, Install tells the story of Asako,
a 17-year-old high school girl who lacks direction.
Hoping to reset her life, she empties out her entire
room and stops going to school. One day, she encounters
Aoki, a strange 10-year-old boy who offers her the
job of watching over his sex chat site while he's
at school. However, there is one problem: both of
them are virgins pretending to be a 26-year-old housewife.
But that's okay, since Aoki speaks wisdom beyond his
years (his explanations of sexual acts make for some
of the most hilarious yet uncomfortable moments in
the film), and Asako is eager to learn. Asako takes
the job and begins to immerse herself into an adult
world she's never seen before.
Install is a unique
commercial film. With the repetitive bubble-gum-pop-meets-Ikea
music, quirky characters, and deadpan humor, Install
seems to be trapped in a constant dreamy atmosphere.
The film moves at a snail's pace because of its thin
plot, and yet the film never bores. After all, the
surreal world of Install reflects much of the
inner turmoil that Asako goes through. At 17, Asako
is trapped between a rock and a hard place; she feels
that she's lived a full life, yet society tells her
otherwise. The boredom of adolescence, however, may
not be a pace nor style that appeals to everyone.
Asako may be "re-installing" herself as
a sex chat goddess, but even then she's still trapped
inside a closet with the computer for hours, connecting
with anonymous strangers all lying for false pleasure.
In other words, Asako has merely moved from being
a nihilist to an existentialist. But don't worry,
Install is not that kind of movie. Just when
the film hints at a darker corner with its subject
matter, it takes a u-turn back to the light quirky
humor that floods much of the film.
Install actually stalls
when something does happen. The first two acts are
thoroughly enjoyable, as Asako discovers her crisis
and new purpose in the world and interacts with possibly
the horniest 10-year-old character in recent motion
picture history. However, when the revelations and
twists begin to arrive at the third act, the film's
pace comes to a screeching halt. Plot points are confused
by the quirky delivery as Kataoka continues to emphasize
atmosphere over plot - perhaps not a very wise way
to wrap up a film. When the film finally limps to
its conclusion, what have these characters done to
"install" themselves? The answer is: not
is one of the most interesting teen films to come
out in years. Not necessarily inclined toward social
commentary or huge character arcs, Kataoka seems to
be aiming for a surreal inconsequential comedy with
a touch of nihilism and existentialism. This might
not be what everyone is looking for when it comes
to a film on kids and Internet sex chats, and Install
is tame compared to its American counterparts, but
the not-so-cynical out there may dig its dreamy style
and its unfaltering innocence. It's also that dreamy
surreal style that prevents Install from being
anything mind-blowing or something that will affect
a teenager's life. Still, just like Asako and Aoki's
journey into the adult world, even though the destination
may not be very satisfying, at least the journey was
fun while it lasted. (Kevin Ma 2006)