The Liar and His Lover Review
Director: Norihiro Koizumi
Starring: Takeru Satoh, Sakurako Ohara, Saki Aibu, Sorimachi Takashi, Masataka Kubota
The band Crude Play is at the top of the charts thanks to their secret weapon Aki (Satoh), a former member and musical genius who writes the group’s songs. After a messy breakup with his superstar girlfriend Mari (Aibu), Aki goes to the riverside and is inspired to write a new song. Witnessing his humming, Riko (Ohara) falls instantly in love and Aki, looking for a way to move past his unhappiness agrees to date her. Wanting to keep his identity a secret, Aki builds a series of lies; including his name, his job, and the fact that he cannot stand girls who sing, effectively muzzling Riko in his presence. Unbeknownst to Aki however is the fact that Riko is actually a gifted singer who has been scouted by Crude Play’s very own producer (Sorimachi) and the reason for his breakup with Mari.
Having loved his Chihayafuru series of films, and his Taiyo no Uta film, I went back a bit through Koizumi’s work to this live action adaptation of the manga by Kotomi Aoki. The film itself moves along fairly briskly with a clear feeling that the importance of some characters and interactions are glossed over for the limited running time of a feature film. Nevertheless the film does a solid job of maintaining compelling drama coupled with a strong soundtrack and good lead performances. Satoh’s aloof Aki is at first fairly unlikable but he quickly becomes a good protagonist who makes some boneheaded ideas. It’s a bit frustrating seeing him at times, especially considering the performance by Ohara as Riko. She’s a pure type character who is sweet, cute, and very likable. Her singing voice is top notch as well with the songs she performs being both well done and produced. The film itself does a good job of masking her voice with cutaways and teases until the important emotional scenes where she is allowed to shine, which she does so brightly.
The supporting cast includes the good Sorimachi as the snakey Takagi, Kubota as the bassist of Crude Play who gives a teasing performance which I’m sure fans of the manga will probably not appreciate as much considering his star power and the apparent popularity of the character among fans.
Overall, the film is a fairly sweet and interesting enough romance/drama. Thankfully the reveal of the Aki’s identity isn’t saved for the finale as is typical of most Western films, but as an act break before the film can truly begin. While I did enjoy the film in my viewing, as well as the soundtrack, it seems to be missing something that never elevates itself past the ‘teen romance’ moniker. The sentimental highs are great, as are the winning performances by Satoh and Ohara, but there is little unique about this film among a literal mountain of similar film being produced each year. Also, be sure to remain until the end of the film for an extra scene, I’m just saying.