Supermarket Woman

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5.0 out of 5 stars Quality or Quantity

“Supermarket Woman” (“Supa no onna”) is the fourth in director Itami Juzo’s “woman” series, that started with his 1987 film A Taxing Woman. All of them follow similar themes, featuring his plucky wife Miyamoto Nobuku who tackles the big boys with nothing more than spirit, common sense and a great big smile.

This one tells the story of a local grocery store, Goro’s, that has to face a new challenger in the undercutting Bargain’s Galore. The owner of Goro’s is despondent, until a chance encounter with former classmate Hanako (Miyamoto) gives him a ray of hope. Hanako convinces Goro to set up his store around the needs of the housewives who do all of the shopping, and the idea of pushing quality rather than shoddy quantity.

The plot is simple, but carried out with Itami’s usual comedic style. The humor is more smiles than guffaws, although there are plenty of laughs to be had. The theme is still relevant, pitting local small businesses against giant chain stores, and provides a roadmap to success for those willing to fight.

Like the rest of his “woman” series, Itami does not shy away from sexuality and “Supermarket Woman” is no different. At the time of this filming, Miyamoto was 51, but neither she nor her director husband were ashamed at showing the sex life of the middle aged, and there is one really charming scene in particular. It is the kind of natural, human way of looking at things that it so often missing from American flicks, where sex must be played for comedy or arousal, and not just a part of human nature.

Itami’s flicks are just pure feel-good fun, promoting a better world where the nice guys finish first and a spunky young woman can change the world. He is the Japanese version of Frank Capra, and while his films can be just as corny they are also just as much fun to watch. I want to live in Itami’s world.

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