Home Movie Vault Disc Vault Coming Soon Join Our Mailing List Articles About Us Contest Soundtrack Books eStore


Genre: Drama/Comedy
Director: Lee Sang-il
Cast: Yasuko Matsuyuki, Etsushi Toyokawa, Yû Aoi, Shizuyo Yamazaki
RunTime: 1 hr 48 mins
Released By: The Picturehouse
Rating: PG

Opening Day: 30 May 2007 (The Picturehouse)


Based on a true story, HULA GIRLS is a heartwarming comedy about coal miners' daughters who take a once-in-a-lifetime chance to escape their monotonous lives, and become unwitting heroes in their depressed mining town and the whole of Japan. It is 1965, old mining towns began their long slow decline as the country started to shift from coal to oil. A small town way up north comes up with an idea to develop Japan's first Hawaiian Village. And what's a Hawaiian Village without a troupe of Hula dancers? The only problem is, no one knows how to do the dance, or even knows what the Hula is! In this hilariously touching comedy, the skepticism and conservatism of the locals is gradually overcome as their daughters fall under the spell of one talented and determined dance instructor from the big city of Tokyo.

Movie Review:

Winning Best Film and Best Director at the Japan Academy Awards as well as being Japan’s official submission for the 2007 Oscars’ foreign film category, Korean director Lee Sang-il’s “Hula Girls” has more charm than one can shake their tail feathers at and more mileage than one might expect from another story of underdogs railing against the establishment. The generational gaps and cultural reconfiguration and adaptability of the young are examined through humour and heartfelt observations in the true story of an ebbing factory town in the north of Japan called Joban, in 1965.

The trajectory of the story is predictably bittersweet, but doesn’t veer into heavy soap or tedious social commentary to earn its stripes as a film with sufficient gravitas and consequence. It recalls such Japanese genre gems such as “Swing Girls”, “Shall We Dance” and “Linda Linda Linda” with the colourful and carefully tuned characters that we’ve come to expect and the late, great flourish in the climax showing all the hard work and strife endured being paid off in spades. “Hula Girls” earns its emotional output and goodwill with its characters. There are no villains but only circumstances to be braved and they level us through their actions, not their words.

Sanae (Eri Tokunaga) and Kimiko (Yu Aoi) are teenagers hoping to leave their oppressive environment see a chance of a way out, or at least a change of pace from a dreary life when the coal-mining town finds its lifeblood being siphoned away by the rising industry of oil. In order to stop the rot, a representative from the coal company supposes an idea to transform the chilly town of Joban into a tourist attraction by way of a Hawaiian cultural centre (remember, this is based on a true story) that inevitably draws criticisms and reproach from the town elders. The hula dance, critical to the success of the centre is cause for concern amongst the conservative townies. They have everything to lose by not acquiescing with the plan but what they aren’t prepared to give up are their convictions and principles, especially not in the face of a world defiantly changing beyond their control.

With the onus of the town’s prospects set squarely on the bold few, they are coached by an apparently blasé Madoka (Matsuyuki Yasuko) who finds herself in over her head with the motley crew of naïve but determined young girls ready to take over the reins of leading their town’s workforce. These girls are faced with decisions to uphold their families’ wishes or to do what they feel is right for the economically depressed town, despite the risks being taken. The film brings to light the role of sexism in small towns through its dramatic confrontations, where girls grow up to be wives and mothers instead of individuals with the same respect in the workforce as men.

There’s a distinct sense of rebelliousness throughout the proceedings, especially when the girls finally grow into their own skin and shake their hips for the world to behold. The camera captures every titillating movement, relishing in the vindication of following their beliefs. The didactics of the script, without the lack of surprises and deviations finds itself with its own measure of vindication as well in its deftly executed simplicity when it recently won Lee the Best Screenplay category at the Japan Academy Awards.

Movie Rating:

(Charming, and bursting with joyful triumph)

Review by Justin Deimen

DISCLAIMER: Images, Textual, Copyrights and trademarks for the film and related entertainment properties mentioned
herein are held by their respective owners and are solely for the promotional purposes of said properties.
All other logo and design Copyright©2004-2007, movieXclusive.com™
All Rights Reserved.