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  Cannonball Wedlock  
Cannonball Wedlock

Yuriko Yoshitaka in Cannonball Wedlock.
Japanese: 婚前特急  
  Year: 2011    
  Director: Koji Maeda    

Ryo Takada, Koji Maeda


Yuriko Yoshitaka, Kenta Hamano, Anne Watanabei, Anna Ishibashi, Ryo Kase, Munetaka Aoki, Takuya Yoshimura, Mutsuo Yoshioka, Shohei Uno, Kazuko Shirakawa, Takaaki Enoki

The Skinny: Surprising, low-key romcom about a young woman with five boyfriends who gets her richly deserved comeuppance. In the lead, Yuriko Yoshitaka is both unlikable and sympathetic.
by Kozo:

Koji Maeda makes a strong directorial debut with Cannonball Wedlock, a low-key romantic comedy starring Yuriko Yoshitaka (Snakes and Earrings) as a self-absorbed female player who inadvertently plays herself. Chie (Yoshitaka) is a twenty-four year-old OL who strings along five guys for her own selfish purposes. Chie isn't serious about any of the guys, and switches between them whenever it suits her mood or needs. One could call her a slut, but she doesn’t think she’s one. Chie just wants to enjoy life without the baggage of marriage or compromise – and it's not like any of her guys are complaining about the lack of exclusivity. Why can’t a single wannabe yuppie girl have some fun?

She can, but life has other plans. After a pal gets married, Chie vows to be choosier in her love life, and begins to cull her reverse harem in hopes that the last man standing is husband material. First to be sacrificed is chubby slacker Takumi (Kenta Hamano), who she thinks is the least attractive and/or promising. But Chie is in for a surprise. Not that Takumi is better than she thinks, but in choosing to get rid of him, Chie discovers a lot about herself – and the answers may not be ones that she likes. She thinks she's the one doing the dumping, but maybe she's the one being dumped. And was she right to make Takumi the first of her male harem sacrifices? Conventional wisdom says she made the right choice, but Cannonball Wedlock is decidedly unconventional and oddly more real than your standard romcom.

Cannonball Wedlock bucks usual movie cliches by giving Chie a loser for a romantic foil – though for a loser, Takumi wins pretty often. As Takumi, Kenta Hamano is dumpy and dense, but in an obtusely confident manner that makes him endearing. He's far from a GQ-type, and even farther from the bishonen who populate most J-film romances. When the spurned Chie sets Takumi up to fail, her schemes never go as planned. She sets him up with baked goods heiress Mika (Anna Ishibashi) to make him feel heartbreak, but Mika doesn't cooperate. Takumi even befriends one of Chie's still-eligible guys, single father Nishio (Ryo Kase in a supporting role). The scene where Chie realizes that her plans are crumbling is a terrific one, with innocuous conversation between the two men slowly diminishing Chie like a knife being twisted into her gut. What happens afterwards is pure romcom, but Maeda's low-key direction turns what could be sappy manipulation into winning absurdity.

Cannonball Wedlock is a comedy but not a pronounced one. The comedy comes mostly from the dry manner in which the plot unexpectedly turns, with gags and reversals unencumbered by attention-getting direction. Yuriko Yoshitaka is both cute and caustic as Chie, making her character understood while never trying to make her likable. Anyway, the enjoyment here isn't in audience identification; Chie isn't the girl you want to see beat the odds and get the guy. She's a me-first modern girl who's so blind to her excess of shortcomings that it's natural to desire her comeuppance. That she gets, and her fate is both poetically deserved and surprisingly pleasing. The story turns are sometimes a little wacky, but there's something honest here about how people deny and discover their emotions. Quietly accomplished, Cannonball Wedlock is a screwball romcom that rings strangely and surprisingly true. (Kozo, Reviewed at the Udine Far East Film Festival, 2011)

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