The conversational chaff that most screenwriters sweep aside is the raw material of “Fictitious Girl’s Diary.” This loving ode to the banalities of life started in 2006 as a fictional blog written by a comedian known as Bakarhythm, documenting the humdrum existence of a female bank clerk. Its blend of acutely observed detail and gentle humor garnered a cult following, leading first to a book and then a TV series starring the author.
The twist is that Bakarhythm (real name Hidetomo Masuno) is a 44-year-old man, and the sight of him squeezed into a skirt or curling his eyelashes lends a surreal edge to the otherwise uneventful drama. It helps that Masuno — a diminutive 165 centimeters tall — is a similar height to his female co-stars, and his ego doesn’t take up any more space than he does.
The appeal of “Fictitious Girl’s Diary” is hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t already succumbed to its charms. It’s a very low-calorie brand of comfort food, its comedy as mild as the pastel-heavy visual palette.
|Rating||out of 5|
|Run Time||100 mins.|
This big-screen outing stretches the joke even further, in a movie where the lack of narrative urgency is a selling point. Spread over a six-month period, the film is less a continuous story than a series of episodic vignettes, in which Masuno’s unnamed protagonist details her daily activities and natters with colleagues in the staff room, at the gym, or over lunch in the cafeteria.
Series regulars — Asami Usuda, Ryo Sato, Maho Yamada and the single-named Kaho — are joined by a few new faces, most unexpectedly Shim Eun-kyung, the South Korean actress seen in last year’s “The Journalist.” Unlike many movies based on TV shows, there’s no attempt to scale things up, and newcomers needn’t worry about catching up on what happened in previous installments.
As it turns out, there’s not much to catch up on. This is a film where the most pressing mystery is to discover who’s been using the sponge in the office kitchen without rinsing the soap suds off (you’ll gasp!). When one of the women introduces a multi-adapter to the staff room so everyone can charge their devices at once, the others react like it’s one of the monoliths from “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Masuno’s writing is both accurate and generous, relishing rather than mocking the trivialities that people tend to obsess over in the absence of more pressing concerns. He’s happy to pass up opportunities to raise the dramatic stakes, or extract a few more laughs from a situation. Nonetheless, viewers may find themselves tittering and nodding along furiously at the many things that ring true: the morning rituals, the commuter woes, the chit-chat protocols and infinitely mild workplace transgressions.
One of the best devices is the way the main character’s internal monologue offers a more acerbic counterpoint to her bland demeanor. However, Masuno doesn’t suggest the seething discontent underpinning Netflix series “Aggretsuko,” another unorthodox portrait of life as a female office worker.
That two of the sharpest, most relatable depictions of Japanese working women star a middle-aged man and an animated red panda is enough to give anyone pause. Masuno is a gifted female impersonator, but part of me hopes that his character’s symbolic exit at the end of “Fictitious Girl’s Diary: The Movie” — repeating a device used in the TV series — is final this time.