SXSW 2013: ‘Sake-Bomb’ is a textbook road trip comedy but with a broader message
Sake-Bomb follows the odd couple pairing of Sebastian (Eugene Kim), an aimless and sardonic Asian-American, and his inexperienced Japanese cousin Naoto (Gaku Hamada) as they search California for the latter’s ex flame. Before Naoto inherits his own sake company, he sets off to America in order to find the girl that got away. Sebastian is a twenty-something, second generation Asian -American with no job and dreams to be the next viral video star, making videos that belligerently debunk Asian stereotypes. Together, they follow the typical road trip movie tropes that take them to unexpected places, interesting people, and a few life lessons along the way.
When it comes to the self discovery road genre of films, Sake-Bomb satisfies with laughs, emotion, and broad ethnic themes but does not do much in the way of revolutionizing the wheel. Through encounters with oddball characters such as the group of Japanophiles (although labeling them that would do injustice to the film), Sebastian broadens up his mind when it comes to his self deprecating views. Naoto’s own experience with getting used to a culture, discover the truth about his former flame, and dealing with his abrasive cousin creates a more well rounded person.
Also, the film does attempt to tackle the many taboos of Asian and Asian-American representation in the media and among other Americans. Although Mizushima tries to tell too much at times, trying to balance a road trip comedy with broader social messages, the film works when one looks views the textbook storyline as just a vessel for the social issues the film presents.
Rather than being confrontational or contemptuous, the film is a much more aware and introspective look at why ethnic misrepresentation is so much more dangerous than blatant racism. It is the kind of prejudice that can just be laughed at, overlooked, and accepted. Although appearances may deceive, this is not a niche film. All people are affected by subtle prejudices, and this film is one about bringing these issue to light. Like the central metaphor of the film, the eponymous sake bomb, this film is about culture clashes and the issues that still exist.