Memoirs of a Geisha wants to be too pretty – with each frame designed for maximum visual appeal, the picture mistakes opulence for importance. It’s like a
geisha who is all dressed up with no place to go. Arthur Golden’s 1997 book fleshed out exhaustive research with a Pretty Woman story arc, in which a wealthy older patron offers the only hope for a geisha with a heart of gold (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon sensation Ziyi Zhang). Zhang is a bit miscast – she has far too much fire for such a passive role – but Michelle Yeoh and especially Gong Li, as a fellow geisha, manage to breathe just enough life into the proceedings.