Cast Me If You Can is a romantic comedy with enough charm and wit, but lacks direction.
Helmed by Atsushi Ogata, the Japanese film follows Hiroshi Matsuzaki (played by Toru Masuoka), an actor always cast in supporting roles. Living in the shadow of his famous playwright father, he dreams of landing a lead role. When he’s finally cast as the lead in a Woody Allen remake, real life interferes, mimicking his acting career. Good at disappearing in his roles, he’s often mistaken as someone else, whether it’s a shop clerk, security guard or even a kidnapper. In one case of mistaken identity, Hiroshi gets mixed up in a tabloid scandal involving an affair with a married woman. Threatening his big role, Hiroshi sets out to clear his name with the help of his friend, Masaru (Tasuku Emoto), a wannabe spy. But despite the chaos, Hiroshi’s life takes a drastic turn when he meets Aya (Hiromi Nagasaku), an aspiring actress who sees him for himself. The two eventually strike up a friendship, and while it’s undeniable how they feel about one another, their relationship is threatened due to Hiroshi’s issues with self-identity.
What makes the film work is the fact that both Masuoka and Nagasaku are able to play off each other’s characters. While Masuoka perfectly portrays Hiroshi’s awkward yet endearing personality, Nagasaku’s Aya is effective in helping him take charge of his life through her bubbly, happy-go-lucky persona. But while the acting is strong, the script isn’t.
While it’s clear the two leads have undeniable chemistry, their relationship is rushed and unrealistic. Things seem to move very fast in the movie and resolutions are unclear. Considering this film is supposed to be a romantic-comedy, Ogata loses focus on what he wants to show, shifting from one sub-plot to the other, making one wonder if Hiroshi and Aya’s relationship is even relevant to the story anymore.
The film includes some nice extras, but some of them aren’t translated for English-speaking audience members, such as the making-of featurette and interviews with the film crew.
Thankfully, the best features are more accessible. Recorded in both English and Japanese, Ogata’s commentary offers a detailed insight on how the movie was made. Adding a little extra to the disc is a short film called Eternally Yours, also directed by Ogata. In the 15 minute short, actor Masuoka can be seen once again playing a con man targeting an elderly woman.
Cast Me if You Can has enough charm and wit to leave romance junkies satisfied despite the blurry lines in the film’s plot and its predictable ending. And while the actors try to make the best of what they’re given, it’s the writing and directing that hold them back.
(This was published in Exclaim! on February 25, 2012)