Movie review: Delightful "Kumiko" seeks fake "Fargo" treasure

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

If it were a cruel movie, “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter” would make for a mean-spirited dark comedy, but it thankfully is not (though there is plenty of dark comedy).

“Kumiko” works from a premise that gives it cult movie cred from the start. The title character (played magnificently by Oscar nominee Rinko Kikuchi of “Babel”) is a solitary and mild-mannered office worker in Tokyo.

Kumiko’s day-to-day life seems dreary and joyless, but she dreams of treasure. Specifically the (fictional) treasure buried by Steve Buscemi’s Carl Showalter in 1996’s “Fargo.”

Writer-director David Zellner actually manages to wring a feature out of the joke — the original “Fargo” came with a completely fake “This is a true story” announcement at the beginning — that takes on both a silliness and melancholy.

We know the futility of Kumiko’s quest, but Kikuchi’s performance makes her more endearing than pitiable. (A nice reference point would be Ryan Gosling in “Lars and the Real Girl.”)

There are moments of magnificent and bittersweet humor — Kumiko attempting to free her beloved pet bunny before setting out on her quest is priceless. There are also moments of real sadness — phone calls from an unsympathetic mother who wants Kumiko to move home “if you’re not going to get married.”

It’s a little uneven, but Zellner delivers a fine and original movie that touches on a damaged lead character with grace. And, duh, “Fargo” fans should be especially intrigued.

"Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter"

3 stars out of 4

Opens Friday at the Gateway Film Center