Well, it sure looks good. That’s what I kept saying to myself throughout Last Quarter: it’s a lush, digitally-photographed movie that’s been art-directed and lit to within an inch of its life. And since it stars the gorgeously androgynous J-rocker Hyde (and the no-less-gorgeously-female Chiaki Kuriyama) and was adapted from a girl’s comic, you could guess that it’s mainly a teeny-bopper vehicle for the black-lipstick set. It’s actually a little more sophisticated than that, but not enough to make it really special.
Mizuki (Kuriyama) has problems. On her nineteenth birthday, she discovers her rocker boyfriend is cheating on her, flings a shoe at him while he’s up on stage, storms off like a lame duck and tears up her shapely heel in the process. On the way home she passes a large house shrouded in mist that looks like it was forklifted in from the Universal Studios backlot, and for no discernible reason other than screenwriterly convenience she steps inside. There, she meets Adam (Hyde), a musician who’s renting the place for the week, and who’s playing a song that seems terribly familiar to her.
Mizuki's odd encounter with rocker Adam leaves her stranded in a netherworld
between life and death, where the past is ripe for plundering by the screenwriters.
She becomes fascinated with him — bet you couldn’t see that coming — and stops by his house again to be a sounding board for her problems. Then the movie shifts gears and steps into the realm of the fantastic, throwing Mizuki into a netherworld that seems to be a kind of shared dreamspace. There, she bumps into another girl looking for a missing cat — something which is actually an extension of what that girl was doing in the “real” world, as we soon find out. The missing cat eventually turns up in Adam’s house — as does Mizuki herself, whose spirit seems to have become imprisoned by the house and lost all memory of her regular life except for her experiences with Adam.
This touches off a kind of supernatural detective story, where the girl and a classmate try to piece together what’s happened to Mizuki (and Adam) from neighbors, Mizuki’s former boyfriend, and everyone else they can find. There are, as you can imagine, terrible secrets from the past to be unburied, wrong things which must be set right, and a great many shots of Hyde and Kuriyama standing around (or sitting around, or lying around) and looking forlorn. But there’s something oddly static about the whole thing. Instead of drama, we get the mere accumulation of plot details; it’s all about as compelling as filling in the blank spaces in a Sudoku puzzle. Some of the plot symmetry is amusing — like how Mizuki basically commits a supernatural form of infidelity as a kind of revenge against her unfaithful ex — but, again, it’s all handed in a way that’s too mechanical to really catch fire.
The supernatural detective story feel of Last Quarter keeps our interest, but fails to
generate enough heat to really make the movie cook instead of just being a curiosity.
Seeing Hyde in this film, who gets top billing despite having relatively little screetime, I wondered about the logic filmmakers employ when putting rock stars in front of a movie camera. The line of thought behind such projects seems to be that anyone who’s good up on a stage in front of thousands of people must be even better in a movie studio. Unfortunately, it’s rarely true — for every Mick Jagger (or Mark Wahlberg, or even Ice Cube), there’s a dozen Olivia Newton-Johns, who get correspondingly wretched material to go with their very meager acting talents. Hyde is probably not a bad actor, but he’s given so little to do here other than pose, look moody and blow smoke, so it’s hard to tell.
Last Quarter was derived from a comic by Ai Yazawa, she who was responsible for a number of other, enormously popular stories that have also been adapted to other media: Paradise Kiss, for instance, now an anime, and which is apparently about a lot more than just pretty faces. But Quarter doesn’t add up to very much — it’s mostly a bunch of vaguely macabre plot threads and pretty shots looking for a home. There is, however, something to be said about any movie where the production design can upstage someone as flamboyant as Hyde.