Monday, January 21, 2013

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

I am, I have to admit, something of a sucker for a good twist ending.  There are a lot of movies with a shitty twist ending, something that comes out of left field, and it's obvious that the filmmakers didn't know how to end the film and figured this was as good as anything.  But a good twist ending makes you want to watch the thing again, with the knowledge that you didn't have the first time, just to see how all the pieces fit.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi has perhaps the subtlest twist ending that I have ever seen in a film, but it is one that completely inverts the narrative of the film.  Jiro Ono is an 85 year old sushi master whose tiny restaurant in the heart of Tokyo earned 3 stars from the Michelin Guide.  His two sons, Yoshikazu and Takashi, followed in his footsteps in the family business; Yoshikazu continues to work at Jiro's restaurant as his second in command, while Takashi has since opened his own sushi restaurant, and is no longer in his father's employ.

Jiro's perfectionism is at the heart of the story, and filmmaker David Gelb hints at, and sometimes explicitly states, just what an unpleasant person he is to work for.  He's a striver, and he is deeply passionate about sushi; it's clear from the very beginning that Jiro's passion is the thing separating his restaurant from your run-of-the-mill sushi joint.  At 85 he still runs the restaurant while Yoshikazu, ever the dutiful eldest son, takes his orders with grace and dignity and waits for his own turn to run the place himself.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is about loving what you do, but it's also about being good at what you do, and it's about the way fathers can overshadow sons and make things difficult on them without meaning to.  Jiro loves his sons enough to train them in the thing that drives him, but while he strives towards an elusive perfection that he will never reach, he sometimes has trouble seeing the thing that is right under his nose.  But the reveal at the end is subtle and beautiful and makes you understand just why Jiro does what he does.  A-

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