Meet the Hanslick Girls: Gwen, Eleanor and Dania. Created by writer Zach Barr, they are a trio of friends who are always out experiencing the best of entertainment. Be it plays, films, concerts, exhibits, or games, they’ve learned that the arts are best when experienced together. They may not have the same opinions, but their conversations tend to make for an entertaining read. To celebrate Christmas Day, the Girls take a look at one of the more unconventional holiday specials: a 2003 film about family, faith, and second chances. Let’s hear what they had to say…
“That’s a…rather contrived note to end the movie on.”
“I’m satisfied,” Eleanor said, watching as the credits rolled by to a reggae-like cover of “Ode To Joy” – which perhaps had something to do with New Year’s Eve, but in practice seemed an odd choice.
“Huh,” Dania grunted. The film was her recommendation – she had grow up watching the unconventional holiday movie, and had wanted to share it with her friends. She was lucky to find a version with good subtitles online. The film lost something without its powerful original voice actors – even in a foreign language, the passion of their delivery helped the movie spring to life.
The credits ended, and the movie stalled. Sitting back, Dania looked at her friends. Gwen, true to form, sat staring at the screen with an inquisitive glare. Her eyes…they were harder to read now. Had she liked the movie? What was she holding back?
Eleanor, sitting next to Dania, was easier – she had cuddled her head into the crook of Dania’s shoulder, and wrapped herself in a blanket. This was the last evening the three would spend together before the holiday, and Tokyo Godfathers was the finale to a long evening of holiday films.
“You like it?” Dania eventually asked the lump leaning on her.
“Yes,” Eleanor said. “It’s pretty good, thanks for the recommendation.”
“Totally,” Dania smiled. “Yeah, I watched this all the time growing up.”
“You watched it as a kid?” Gwen asked.
“What? Because it’s so mature?”
“Yeah, it was a little adult for me.” Dania explained. “You know kids, it just went over my head. I liked the action, the characters, that there’s a baby in it – always a plus.”
“That it’s Christmas,” Eleanor added.
“That it’s Christmas. Did you like it, Gwen?”
Considering this, Gwen leaned back down on the couch, her head on the armrest.
“I’m fairly certain I did,” Gwen said. “In a Christmas special kind of way. I suppose if you grew up with it, you’d probably be warmer towards it.”
“Probably,” Dania agreed. “I know it’s not perfect. But I really like what’s there.”
“I believe…” Gwen began. “I believe what’s holding me back from flat out saying I enjoy it is the plot.”
“What about the plot?” Eleanor said. “That they basically treat the baby like a prop? They can run and jump and fall with the baby and it’s always okay?”
“Not necessarily, that’s par for the course with action movies,” Gwen said. “I do certainly consider this an action movie.”
“Gin would be happy to hear that,” Dania laughed. “Hana calls him an ‘action hero’ during the climax.”
“To be fair, the climax is an action-movie climax, out of nowhere,” Gwen defended.
“Not out of nowhere,” Eleanor said, looking up from Dania’s shoulder. “They set up the intrigue and tone during the first half.”
“Still…” Gwen said. “At any rate, there are action movie tropes at play here I don’t mind. What bothers me instead are the contrivances of the plot.”
“What, that they just happen to run into the right locations to keep the plot moving forward?” Eleanor said.
“…yes, essentially,” Gwen said. “Consider the plot summary: they find this baby, and then they happen to run into a man trapped under his car, who happens to be a mob boss, who happens to be going to a wedding…”
“Yeah, they never really bring up the wedding again, do they?” Dania said. “I remember even as a kid wanting to see more of that, later.”
“It gets resolved,” Eleanor suggested. “How Gin relates to it, anyway. In the hospital scene.”
“It’s messy, though,” Gwen continued. “To say the least. There are plenty of plot threads that don’t follow through. The old man and his red bag – what happened there?”
“Did you miss that?” Dania asked. “It’s at the very end. When Miyuki gets Gin’s coat, the bag falls out. Here, let me show you.”
Dania found the moment, right before the end of the movie, where the bag fell to the ground, revealing its contents. Eleanor gasped.
“I completely missed that!” she said. “That’s crazy!”
“I did too,” Gwen said, frowning. “That’s an odd way to pay off that plot point, in one second during the finale.”
“You pick it up when you watch it each year,” Dania said. “Or little things, like the fact that Miyuki is much thinner now than in her flashback.”
“I caught that, for sure.”
“What?” Eleanor said. “That’s cool! It makes sense, too.”
“It’s good worldbuilding,” Gwen agreed. “In general, I liked the characters fine. They were probably the strongest part.”
“For sure,” Eleanor said, sitting up. “I love how much Hana drives the story through. It’s her obsession with the baby that makes the plot happen, anyway. You could resolve it in five minutes by bringing the baby to the police, but they don’t. And it makes sense why Hana doesn’t.”
“I will give it that: the inciting incident of this movie happens about five minutes in,” Gwen explained. “And yet, in that time, you still get all the character you need out of the three leads to justify everything they do after that. Their interactions with each other are excellently written and performed.”
“That moment when they find Kiyoko is my favorite part of it,” Dania said. “Maybe the moment with Hana and Kiyoko in the snow beats it, but it’s close.”
“I don’t know if the plot is bad, though,” Eleanor said. “I mean, think about it: it’s a movie about uncovering a mystery – I mean, generally, you know, the mystery of ‘where is this baby from.'”
“And every scene, weird as it is, they get a little more info about the baby. Or another lead to follow. It’s always moving forward.”
“Maybe,” Gwen shrugged. “I definitely enjoy the characters, but there are a few too many contrivances for my tastes.”
“I dunno,” Dania said. “When you watch it so many times, you start to kind of go numb to that and focus on the Christmas cheer.”
“It does incorporate Christmas messages into the narrative without them feeling forced,” Gwen agreed. “It reads as a movie first, and a Christmas special later.”
“The opening with the church service is really sweet,” Eleanor said. “And that moment with the angel who saves Gin – I mean, they reveal it’s not a literal angel later, but…”
“That seemed obvious to me,” Gwen said. “Angels wouldn’t fit into the world of this movie.”
“It’s funny though,” Dania said. “And it’s how we find out more about Hana’s backstory.”
“Everyone has a good backstory here,” Eleanor said. “I know that’s basically what you said, Gwen, about the good characters, but it’s true. The more you find out about them, the more I like them – despite that what you find out technically makes them more unlikeable.”
“‘Relatable’ might be the cleaner word.” Gwen shifted over, also leaning on Dania’s shoulder.
“I think that’s why I’m not bothered by the plot,” Eleanor continued. “Because the most interesting thing is the characters, and it’s really about them rather than what they’re doing, I don’t mind moments spent just learning more about them. Miyuki bonding with the Latin American mother doesn’t do much for the plot…”
“‘Big breasts – Wow!'” Dania said, quoting the film’s best line.
“…but it’s so nice and warm to see her with a parent that isn’t Hana or Gin.”
“Are Gin and Hana parental figures?” Gwen asked. “I read the three more as equals than a pseudo-atomic family. One of the messages is the importance of non-traditional family units.”
“That seems like they meant that to happen,” Gwen said. “But I don’t know how old Hana is, she could be younger.”
“That nurse mistakes Miyuki for the baby’s mother as well, though,” Dania said. “She’s not, you know, a child.”
“She’s fifteen, right?”
“That’s not a child. Besides, she’s homeless, she can clearly support herself enough.”
“Share some of that blanket,” Gwen said, reaching towards Eleanor. They reoriented the blanket to cover all three of them, together on the couch.
“What did you think of the ending?” Dania asked.
“You mean Hana and the Baby in the end?”
“You know what I mean.”
“Didn’t hate it,” Gwen said. “It was extreme, but I’m willing to accept one instance of breaking the rules they’ve set up if it’s during the climax. And if there’s a character that’s going to break the rules, it’s Hana.”
“It’s such good representation to have a trans mother figure at the center of the plot,” Eleanor said. “Although it’s not great – there are still some male pronouns used, and it’s clear they don’t really know how to talk about it. But you know – as a result they just don’t. Hana gets to just be Hana.”
“Yeah,” Dania said. “Good to see as a kid, I’ll give it that.”
“I’m on the fence,” Gwen said. “There are parts I enjoy, parts that need tweaking, a weak plot…”
“I think the characters pull it through for me,” Eleanor said. “Even you admitted they’re the best part of it.”
“You gotta love a movie about three friends around the holidays,” Dania said, hugging her friends closer under the blanket.
“Aww, stop it.”
They sat there, a three-headed lump on a couch – warmed by thoughts of a roaring fire on a chilled, snowy evening. Eleanor would leave for her hometown in the morning, but for now, they could spend the holidays with family.
Image Credit: The Mary Sue