I think that my experience of the movie is best described by what I said when she asked me what I thought.
"I didn't understand it."
The movie made no sense (and this comes from a guy who has seen and appreciated such movies as Mission: Impossible and its sequel). What time period was it set in? Did they have modern-looking telephone polls in Japan in the late 1800's (the time period I initially guessed at)? Geisha are supposed to be more than really high-class prostitutes, right? Wait, this is between World War I and World War II? Seven or eight years of hard labour in the mountains only takes as much toll on a person as if a scene change had been made? 15,000 yen. . . is that a lot?
There was something very wrong with the movie from the start, I thought, but I couldn't quite tell what it was. Then it hit me: for a movie set in Japan, there were certainly very few Japanese actors.
Of course, I understand the difficulty in casting this movie with enough Japanese actors. I mean, it's not like there's an island in the Pacific where you can just go and find them. No, no such place exists, surely.
I also had difficulty understanding most of the dialogue. I was confused why the first 10 minutes of the movie were all in Japanese (or perhaps some other Asian language), but the rest of the movie was not.
The Japanese soldier's uniforms and armaments even confused me, as did the planes. I'm no expert on Japanese arms, but a lot looked out of place. Not that one could really tell. . . I'm still not entirely sure what year things happened in.
The whole process of becoming a Geisha was terribly and painfully mysterious. You never knew why someone was doing something. Nothing was ever explained.
The weird dance number (and if you see it, you'll understand) was the most confusing and weird thing I'd ever seen. I didn't know that Geisha learned modern dance in interwar Japan. I really liked watching the dances with fans and such, but this one dance just. . . confused me.
There was a ten second shot of the Japanese coast in daylight that I found quite lovely, but there was nothing else, really, that was visually stunning in the movie. The majority of the movie appeared to have been shot on the back lots of Hollywood or a similar location. Nothing appeared dangerous or suspenseful. I did not find the geisha beautiful or special, but just another type of character. Nothing really surprised me, except, perhaps, the ending.
And my gods, the ending! I'd spent all this time watching a fairy tale? Where everything works out right in the end? My gods, I've been cheated with a f'ing happy ending!
I don't know a lot about the struggles of women during this time period, or the struggles of Geisha. But I do know that this movie doesn't seem to have captured any real struggle for me. I couldn't recognize the troubles that the characters had (it seemed like a lot of worry over nothing). It was, really, as if they were just being silly over things that were unimportant.
It surprised me, honestly, to find this movie so devoid of beauty and intrigue. Perhaps I expected too much; it's hard to say.
I wouldn't recommend the movie, personally. It's not really beautiful, moving, or much worth seeing. I mean, I imagine it's alright if you're into fairy tales and period pieces that confuse the heck out of you, but that's not me.