Box art for Memoirs of a Geisha

Memoirs of a Geisha

drama, foreign, romance

A Cinderella story set in a mysterious and exotic world, this stunning romantic epic shows how a house servant blossoms, against all odds, to become the most captivating geisha of her day.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

PAUSE for kids age 14
0 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
3 out of 5
0 out of 5
Positive messages
0 out of 5
3 out of 5
3 out of 5

Gorgeous, but slow-moving and not meant for kids.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that while this film is beautiful, it's slow-moving and occasionally scary, not designed for young children. The film includes some images of streets under siege (China and Japan are at war), as well as tensions inside the geisha house (one character sets fire to the house, leading to some frightening images). The film begins with the traumatic scene of a young girl sold to a geisha house by her poor parents, and shows her upset when she's forcibly separated from her sister, who works at another house.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about the film's portrayal of geisha life: it is mysterious but also difficult. How does the film both "westernize" its characters and "exoticize" them, so they are both conventionally sympathetic and stereotypically "inscrutable"? How is Sayuri's love for the Chairman a function of romantic conventions more than a substantive relationship between the two characters? How is the idea of the geisha associated with "submissive" and servile women?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

Top Critic Reviews

Fresh: It is a lush, blushingly romantic portrait of Asian culture as seen through a Western lens.

- Amy Biancolli, Houston Chronicle, Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Fresh: The subject remained interesting enough to this provincial American to accept and ultimately enjoy the film's well-worn romanticism, even with its resignedly tired happy ending.

- Andrew Sarris, New York Observer, Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Rotten: For a while, you're waiting for Memoirs of a Geisha to start. Then you can't wait for it to end.

- Bill Muller, Arizona Republic, Thursday, December 22, 2005

Audience Reviews

3 stars

Nice story that takes a lot of time to tell. I had to watch with subtitles even thought they spoke English, it was still difficult to understand. Educational about what a Geisha's life would be like, but still a good bit of mystery.

- Tomassgringo, Saturday, September 4, 2010

3 stars

Never knew what Geisha was. This was okay.

- 3niR, Tuesday, June 22, 2010

3 stars

Memoirs Of A Geisha follows the life of a girl sold by her family from a poor fishing village into servitude in a geisha house. Looking like a who's who of all the usual Asian suspects (although a few more Japanese faces mightn't have gone amiss) this film is one of those visually sumptuous period pieces that has "Oscar Nominated" written all over it. It plays out like a ritualization of sexual politics in which the feisty young heroine wins out in the game of social one-upmanship with her sluttier, bitchier rival to become the most envied and admired woman in town, all the while holding a torch for her one true love (who just happens to be dashingly handsome, wealthy, influential and unattainable too. Surprise surprise...) It's easy to be cynical at these kinds of thing, but the cast are impeccible and the costume design, sets and cinematography all splendid, but I couldn't help noting the irony of the post war section of the film in which Zhang is distraught at the sight of "her" culture becoming a homogenized post card to be sent back to the states. After all, isn't this film just a pseudo high brow extension of that very same process...? I must admit I did enjoy the peek behind the petticoats of homogenized Japanese culture, being as interested in it as the next western devil, and the combination of period detail and intellectualized soap opera is quite entertaining. I can't really take it seriously as a piece of art however, because it's really the visuals that make this film what it is; scrape away the elaborate make up and you have a generic female crowd pleaser (the learning-to-be-a-geisha montage in particular made "You're The Best" from The Karate Kid pop into my head) and it's really just Pretty Woman for Guardian readers.

- garyX, Tuesday, February 1, 2011