Hula Girls (review)

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Winner of Japan’s “Oscar” for Best Picture, this charming film is like The Full Monty meets October Sky for a vacation in Asia. The chance to become professional hula dancers sparks the imagination of a band of young women in a Japanese mining town in the 1950s, and over the objections of their families — hula dancing is not a respectable option for a proper your girl, not in this traditional culture, not at this prefeminist time. Sweet humor characterizes the girls’ initial attempts to reach for their dream anyway — the professional teacher who comes from Tokyo is not what they were expecting — and that sweetness never gives way even, as inevitably happens in these tales, when tragedy strikes and threatens all they do eventually accomplish. Cultural difference between East and West keep novel some aspects of the film that might have been predictable: our Western ideas about what the right thing to do in the face of adversity are not necessarily universal. Genuinely and cheerfully uplifting, this is a delightful film. A whole separate disc of extras features a making-of documentary, the reality behind this based-on-fact story, “How to Be a Hula Girl,” and more. [buy at Amazon]

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