Oh Lucy! ★★★★½

Just like David Zellner's Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter this gem manages to be both a Japanese indie drama and an American indie drama. Incidentally they are also quite similar in their starting point with a single woman crushed between a lonely pointless existence and unsatisfying work environment, and finding solace in a dream of America that they actually travel across the ocean to make true.

That's as far as the similarities go though, as this is much more interested in the specific allure of the American stereotype. With fairly broad but observant strokes and a strong leading performance by Shinobu Terajima it is a glorious depiction of the desire by a culturally repressed person to be more open and cheerful, the way Americans appear. And then the hazard of mistakenly expect this to have the same meaning as it would in your own culture.

The protagonist is not just a tragic figure like Kumiko though. She's bitter and melancholy but she has a delightful non-cheesy desire to improve while refusing to embrace conformity. Even as her desires take on manic qualities Terajima reels it back in and makes the character complex and balanced.

It's also nice to see Josh Hartnett all relaxed and natural, probably with his best performance ever. He's also utilized nicely for the subtly didactic point about cultural differences. We're used to seeing Asian cultures and accents as punchlines, like in Lost in Translation, but this movie suggests that more can be gained from being curious of other cultures to bridge gaps and promote understanding.