We all harbour certain insecurities about our appearance, upon which some spend hours of agonising yet ultimtely pointless procrastination. Whether it be crooked teeth or a receding hairline, we obsess over these imperfections and on occasion even attribute failures within our personal or professional lives to the way we look, which can in turn lead to burgeoning psychological complexes. This is most certainly the case for aspiring young filmmaker Daisuke (Hiroki Konno), whose lack of success is - in his mind at least - attributed solely to his ugly appearance. While his better looking classmate is now an upcoming director, drawing the attention not only of fans but of his attractive lead actress, Daisuke is languishing far behind the scenes, shooting a making-of documentary that will neither bring him the success he desires nor adequately satifying his burning creative urges.
As the film opens, Daisuke has hit rock bottom and is about to throw himself off a rooftop and end his miserable young life, when he is interrupted by Momoko (Sayaka Tashiro), herself an aspiring actress who has landed a brief supporting role in the same production. Momoko reveals her own concerns about her performance as "Ghost #7" and when Daisuke is able to successfully coach her into giving a passable turn, she agrees to give him an interview for his film and the two slowly become friends.
THE BRAT! is the debut feature from Taichi Suzuki, but displays an assured confidence not only in the technical side of the craft, but also in the unashamedly honest and confessional nature of the story. At its heart, THE BRAT! is a story about facing up to your fears and having the confidence and self-belief to go after what it is you want - whether that be a potential love interest that seems way out of your league, or your dream career. As Daisuke grows closer to, and ultimately falls in love with, Momoko, he dares to soften his brash, aggressive demeanour and make the film he has always been afraid to attempt. Likewise, Daisuke's unwavering support gives Momoko the support to go after what she wants to, at least until he discovers what it is she has set her heart on.
There is a strange subplot in THE BRAT! that takes the film briefly into almost supernatural territory which doesn't sit well with the rest of the film, but for the most part Suzuki delivers a hugely entertaining and memorable debut, helped in no small part by his two principal actors. Sayaka Tashiro is absolutely adorable as Momoko, but has her work cut out opposite the incredible energy of lead actor Hiroki Konno. That she is able to stand her ground and produce such a likeable, yet quietly complex perfomance, is testament to her abilities and I suspect we will be seeing plenty more of her in the years to come.
The star of the show, however, is undeniably Konno, whose insensity, self-effacing comic style and downright bizarre appearance all come together to produce one of the year's most memorable screen characters so far. His work was rightly singled out at Yubari's Off Theater Competition, where he was given a Best Actor special mention during a ceremony that does not officially recognise contributions from performers. THE BRAT! also picked up the press-selected Cine-gar Award, as well as the Special Jury Prize - the festival's runner-up award.
In my mind, THE BRAT! was actually the best film in the competition and marks the arrival of an aggresive and exciting new talent in writer-director Taichi Suzuki that I suspect will be recognised at a number of other festivals throughout the year. Bizarre, anarchic, yet strangely charming, THE BRAT! is a delightful little oddity that is well worth your time.
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