Cast Me If You Can
Original title: 脇役物語 | Wakiyaku monogatari | Cast Me If You Can
Country : Japan
Director: Atsushi Ogata
Running time: 97 Min.
Cast: Toru Masuoka | Hiromi Nagasaku | Masahiko Tsugawa | Keiko Matsuzaka | Ai Maeda | Tasuku Emoto
Written by: Miguel Douglas
Cast Me If You Can – Review
by Miguel Douglas on March 19, 2011
Forever supporting actor Hiroshi’s real life seems to mimic his minor acting career. When he walks out on the street he is often mistaken for a shop clerk, staff member, security guard or even a kidnapper. At home, his famous play-writer father Kenta Matsuzaki treats him like an idiot. One day, Hiroshi’s life turns upside down when he meets the woman of his dreams, aspiring actress Aya. While attempting to court Aya, Hiroshi also tries to play the lead in his own life.
The acting business, no matter where you are in the world, is a hard concept to digest. It’s a facet of most societies that panders primarily to the glamour and glitter over actual talent—which in itself is even more subjective in today’s modern world. With such persistent and manipulative forces that exist within such a profession, it’s hard to imagine being within such an industry that often belies creativity in order to make a quick buck, but it does exist. There always seems to be that one individual who’s attempting to become the next big star, to have that grandiose role that will make them known throughout the land and better yet the world. But, as is mostly the case, only a handful actually make it while others slowly fall to the wayside only to continually waiting for an opportunity that may never come. This happens in most other professions as well, but perhaps within the acting industry we can view this a little differently—if one can make it, they are able to essentially live their life acting the lives of other characters within a world of imagination. The ability to become absorbed within a role is often the sign of a true actor, but when fantasy and reality become intertwined, it can often lead to disastrous results. In the case of Atsushi Ogata’s directorial debut Cast Me If You Can, the latter is certainly the approach here, but is done with a most humorous touch.
While the film explores some of the intricacies of the acting world, it mostly focuses on the relationship between aspiring actress Aya and pessimistic actor Hiroshi. We essentially get presented two facets of the industry with these two individuals; in the case of Aya we get the optimistic and joyous approach towards acting that inexperienced actors find themselves in. Quite the opposite though, we view Hiroshi as a tired and impatient supporting actor who has been waiting for his big lead role to appear and sweep him into the acting spotlight. What Cast Me If You Can does well—at least for its first half anyway—is to show the humorous complexities that exist within an industry that doesn’t exactly allow for much seniority to take place. There is always the intermediate actor who gets surpassed by the novice—it’s certainly a true element of the acting industry—but here it’s laid out in a matter that lends a sense of irony towards the audience. These moments of hilarity often show up in the most ordinary of instances: for example, after Hiroshi meets Aya unexpectedly while on his way to meet his father—a popular and famous play writer—in the hospital, Hiroshi unexpectedly introduces the tailing Aya to him, which in turn warrants his father to ask Aya if she wants to star in his upcoming play. It’s moment like these that truly elaborate on the plight that a struggling actor such as Hiroshi experiences, but it’s never done to a degree that removes the film from being a humorous examination of the acting industry.
While we slowly begin to see Hiroshi as an individual still waiting for that golden opportunity for fame, the film humorously showcases that he is completely unaware that he is in fact living out a variety of lead roles in his daily life. What these roles usually culminate in is a case for mistaken identity for Hiroshi—and reluctant jail time. The exact opposite is seen with Aya who we see as the newfound actress that has opportunities literally dropped in her lap. Quite the stark contrast between the two, but it does offer some hilarious scenes of absurdity as the two interact with each other and eventually form a loving relationship. With Hiroshi wanting to land that starring role within his own career, he always ends up unnecessarily helping Aya with hers, which gives the film an ironically satisfying twist. For the most part, director Ogata maintains this sense of comedy with tinges of honesty that provide some insight into the formalities of the acting world. From poking fun at Hiroshi’s shady agent to his surprising removal from a prominent role due to bad press, the film showcases the thin line that actors—especially within Japan—must walk into order to maintain a sense of proper appearance and discourse. With a satirized approach that both explores and mocks the acting industry, the film never feels to weighty considering the nature of the story.
But while Cast Me If You Can is comical in its sternness, the film slowly falls into the trappings that have dominated most romantic comedies as of late. This is particularly prominent during the latter half of the film where we see the humor-filled atmosphere of the first half begin to decline. Replacing the satire on the acting industry with that of a love story, the film loses much of its strength as slides into a formulaic exercise of confessing one’s love at the direst of moments. Ogata can’t seem to decide how to conclude the film as he oddly decides to shift focus towards the relationship shared between Hiroshi and Aya, a relationship that seems too artificial to find believable to begin with. There is very little chemistry between the two characters and to see it essentially tacked on and promoted as an important element of the film is just too melodramatic and rather ineffective. While this wasn’t a huge element of the film to begin with, it’s almost entirely disconnected from the standpoint of viewing the narrative as one that promotes a look into the industry instead of a generic love dynamic. Not a total disappointment, the film loses much of its uniqueness it upheld so strongly during first half. Perhaps with more focus on looking into the underpinnings of the acting industry itself, Cast Me If You Can could could have remained a film that is as funny as it satirical—but sadly it doesn’t retain such a height and stumbles.