Pink and Gray
ピンクとグレー「 Pinku to gure-」
Release Date: January 09th, 2015
Running Time: 119 mins.
Director: Isao Yukisada
Writer: Ryuta Horai, Isao Yukisada (Screenplay), Shigeaki Kato (Original Novel)
Starring: Yuto Nakajima, Masaki Suda, Kaho, Yuya Yagira, Yukino Kishii, Makita Sports, Jingi Irie,
The first casualty of fame is typically friendship as changing personalities, lifestyles and goals tear apart relationships. It is a familiar subject in film and audiences will be able to spot jealousy and arrogance rearing their heads and causing ructions between characters before hoping that all problems will be solved and friendship healed by the end. Shigeaki Kato, a young idol with the boyband NEWS (signed to the label/idol factory Johnny’s Entertainment) wrote this type of story in his 2012 novel of the same name but it features a twist that gives it a little freshness and director Isao Yukisada (Crying Out Love in the Centre of the Earth, Go, Aroused by Gymnopedies).
The film opens with scenes from a ballet and a suicide. As the ballet climaxes we see a popular actor named Rengo Shiraki (Yuto Nakajima) hang himself. His best friend Daiki Kawata (Masaki Suda) enters the scene in the aftermath. Daiki is left facing a beautiful corpse and six wills that have been left on a nearby coffee table. An accompanying note written by Rengo apologises and informs Daiki that he must choose one will but before we know what the wills contain we are taken back in time to their first meeting.
What begins is a typical sort of rags to riches story as two danchi (public housing) kids meet in Saitama, that beautiful prefecture just north of the more exciting and urban showbiz centre of Tokyo. Daiki Kawata is a new arrival having travelled from Osaka but he and Rengo become firm friends at first sight and they form a gang with a girl named Sally (Kaho). Ups and downs accompany their lives as they reach high school graduation and there is also a love triangle but Sally soon has to move away. Despite this loss the boys remain together and move to Tokyo where they are scouted as models in Shibuya and it seems like the loss is short-lived because they rediscover Sally. It seems that their friendship is back on but the world of celebrities has other ideas…
Audiences get immersed in the conflicts show business creates as Rengo displays real idol talent by being able to nail acting roles in various dramas while Daiki falters and proves to be just a pretty face. It is part hard work and natural talent as we see Rengo read scripts thoroughly and thoughtfully build roles by ad-libbing in scenes while Daiki watches in awe from the side of the set and messes around in his spare time. Soon, the less talented and very envious Daiki is watching Rengo on the television screen during his break time at work in some blue collar job. Despite living together in the same apartment the boys drift apart as jealousy afflicts Daiki and he truly becomes a horrible character to follow especially as he takes out his emotions on Sally (people will wonder why she puts up with him).
The closer we get to the suicide the more audience try and figure out what drives Rengo to such an act as he reaches idol status and then a massive shift happens in the film which radically changes all perspectives and positions as we realise what we are seeing isn’t so simple and see how Rengo’s suicide propels Daiki into stardom.
The story changes lead to stylistic changes in aesthetics and acting. Isao Yukisada shoots everything in monochrome and the camerawork feels looser. We remain in the world of celebrities with everything that entails from cinema screenings to massive media attention but the personalities are wilder. Masaki Tsuda (The Light Shines Only There), good at going wild, goes a little overboard in his devilish role while Kaho is unrecognisable from her normal mousy self as the person who emerges in the second half of the film. Yuto Nakajima goes from idol perfection to callow and naive.
This is where the story gets really interesting as we see a young man who may not be prepared for the reality of celebrity and all it entails as he too enters a world of glitz and glamour and finds it ephemeral and a little scandalous. What remains true to Daiki is the bond he felt as he continues to shift through what is left and has to solve the mystery of Rengo’s suicide which remains with the narrative to the very end and it is up to Yuya Yagira (Destruction Babies) to bring enough gravitas to sell it.
This is a solid film with a well-made first half that is fairly predictable and then a second half which manages to do something new with familiar material and Isao Yukisada delivers it in a visually interesting way. The power behind everything is the performance of the leads who keep everything going with Kaho (Puzzle) proving to be a lot of fun.