An expansion of her 2014 Sundance-favorite short of the same name, Atsuko Hirayanagi’s Oh Lucy! is something of a spiritual sequel to the best film of 2015, David Zellner’s Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter. Setsuko (Shinobu Terajima) is a 40-something Tokyo “office lady” who hates everything about her life. When her niece Mika (Shioli Kutsuna) convinces her to try an English-language class in which the somewhat skeezy teacher John (Josh Hartnett) gives Setsuko a blonde wig and christens her “Lucy.”
Setsuko finds she’s able to approach her life from a new angle — including being courageous enough to hop on a plane with Mika’s mother (Kaho Minami) and give chase when Mika and John suddenly fuck off to America together. There, the film largely drops the blonde-wig-as-empowerment thread, and it’s all the better for it as Setsuko continues to learn who she really is as she makes her way through the seedy underbelly of Southern California. Oh Lucy! touches on many themes including Japan’s suicide epidemic, the commoditization of young girls, and especially how middle-aged women are disregarded and desexualized, issues which are far from isolated to Japan. Setsuko-as-Lucy also gets one of the more epic mic drops in recent memory, and Oh Lucy! itself is one of the best films of 2018.
Opens Friday at the Embarcadero Center Cinema.