The late Carrie Hamilton heads to Japan to start a music career in this underrated 80s gem.
Wendy Reed is a backup singer in her boyfriend’s Mike band in New York City. However, she learns after a gig that Mike is planning to replace her as the band finds her boring and Mike dumps her in addition. Distraught, Wendy finds a postcard from an old friend who is in Japan. Upon her arrival, she finds nowhere to go but with the help of some people, she finds a hostel for foreigners. She eventually finds a job as a hostess at a local karaoke club.
One night, while she is at her lowest, she meets Hiro, the lead singer of a local rock band trying to make it big. At first, Wendy mistakes his generosity for prostitution. However, upon learning he is a singer, she begins to connect with him. When he offers her to join his band, they record a demo because they want to get to the biggest agent in Japan, Dota. When an argument leads to Wendy and Hiro appearing in a magazine, they finally hit the big time. However, as time goes on, Wendy begins to have some reservations. Will the fame last or is something else in store for Wendy?
A Japanese-American co-production revolving around the music industry, notably in Japan and their love for American music and musicians, this movie from co-writer and director Fran Rubel Kuzui is quite enjoyable in looking at the lives of two people, one from the USA and one from Japan who become a new “dream team”. Interestingly enough, this was also a launch a new music star perhaps to both Japan and American audiences. Similar to how French music star David Hallyday was introduced to American audiences a year before in the comedy He’s My Girl.
In this case, we have Yutaka Takadoro, who would later change his stage name to “Diamond Yukai”. He plays Hiro, the lead singer of a rock and roll band who thrives on covering classic American rock tunes. The opening credits, with titles by the legendary Keith Haring, has Takadoro singing Carl Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes”. At the time, the late Carrie Hamilton was appearing on the TV show “Fame” and in a moment of irony, playing her ex-boyfriend in the film’s opening is her co-star from that show and her real-life best friend Michael Cerveris.
The film can be said to be a character study. In the case of Hamilton’s Wendy Reed, she is looking for something better in her life and to live her dreams of music stardom. Her trip to Japan could be the steppingstone and we get the classic “fish out of water” story as we see her struggle so much. She tries to find a place to stay upon learning her old friend moved to Thailand and with no money, she is relegated to being a hostess and singing karaoke for businessmen each night.
As for Tadokoro’s Hiro, he too wants to make it big in the music scenes. Working as a crepe maker to make ends meet, he tries his best to do what he can to become a star. However, he finds himself at a crossroads as they are both scared and worries about attempting to send their demo tape to Dota, the biggest agent in Japan, played by another legend, Tetsuro Tamba. It is cute to see Wendy and Hiro’s romantic ludes become a catalyst for their music careers taking off. Both Hamilton and Tadokoro have such amazing voices and the final act has both of them performing separately with songs they both wrote themselves. Oh, and look out for a 45-second scene where Wendy is seeking to join a band and she asks a band who would later become one of the biggest bands in Japan, X Japan.
Tokyo Pop is an underrated 80s film that showcases the musical talents of both Carrie Hamilton and Yutaka “Diamond Yukai” Tadokoro and mesh the “fish out of water” story with the dream of making it big.
WFG RATING: A
A SpectraFilm production in association with Lorimar. Director: Fran Rubel Kuzui. Producers: Kaz Kuzui and Alan Tuber. Writers: Fran Rubel Kuzui and Lynn Grossman. Cinematography: James Hayman. Editing: Camilla Toniolo.
Cast: Carrie Hamilton, Yutaka Tadokoro, Taiji Tonoyama, Tetsuro Tamba, Masami Harukawa, Toki Shiozaawa, Hiroshi Mikami, Hiroshi Kobayashi, Hiroshi Sugita, Satoshi Kanai, Rikiya Yasuoka, Michael Cerveris.