Dreams for Sale tries to include a mosaic of the sublime into its sickly-sweet drama (concerning a young married couple trying to raise money to buy a new restaurant after their first one was destroyed by a fire). It is a brazen attempt that is seen through some powerful cinematography and magnificent music but ultimately fails due to a dull storyline.
Beginning with what appears to be an overview of Tokyo life and nothing more, it moves on to delving into the actual story – starting with a tense and wonderfully shot scene of the incineration of the main couple’s bistro. Appearing to get off to a good start it overcomplicates matters from then on with tawdry exposition that brings about more questions than it answers.
The main narrative crux revolves around Kanya and Satoko trying to raise money for a new river-side restaurant. The epiphany moment of how to get said money comes after Kanya sleeps with a woman he meets in a train station who happens to know him through one of the business-partners of the old, ashen eatery. After she gives him some money Kanya runs home to tell his wife a bogus story of how an old friend passed on some funds for them. Seeing through this lie, Satoko is originally angered but decides she and Kanya can work together, acting as brother and sister (who supposedly needs money for cancer treatment), and that Kanya can pretend to fall in love with a host of vulnerable women who may give him more cash in response to his care, devotion and tale about his sister’s illness.
For a story rich in complexity – within a film running at a hefty 137 minutes – you would expect the characters to seem more than one-dimensional. It is no fault of the actors that their respective characters do not seem to evolve believably throughout the film (as some scenes, mostly with Teruyuki Kagawa in the gender-subverted role as the figurative male whore, capitalise on the actors’ skill) but the writer/director’s. It ends relatively expectedly but 10-15 minutes past the point of you caring. The film’s biggest flaw is disastrously highlighted by the final scenes in that it shows the ineffectual editing/timing of key emotional segments. The film is interesting in part but too dry overall to stimulate any stunning drama or poignancy.