Directed by Naoko Ogigami
Director Naoko Ogigami is sort of a Japanese Wes Anderson — someone who lives and dies by the quirkiness of her films. Rent-A-Cat is chock full of repeated scenarios. Each time Sayoko loans a cat to someone, that person returns the cat a later date, once his or her life has moved on in the way that he or she had hoped it would. But in the end, for an American audience, Rent-A-Cat is a film about a crazy cat lady. Ichikawa is charming enough as the good-natured Sayoko, but the film gets stuck in a rut that doesn’t really move anywhere. Just when it seems that Sayoko is cracking under the pressure of her loneliness, she is back to loaning out cats to strangers. Characters come in and out as they please, sometimes with little to no reason at all. The pinnacle of all this randomness is Sayoko’s neighbor, an old man dressed as a woman with a tendency for unusually cruel remarks.
The film tends to slow down when not much is going on, and these moments usually involve Sayoko talking to her cats or to herself. It happens often, but when Rent-A-Cat gets going with its quirkiness, the whole plotline becomes a bit too adorable to ignore. The idea of someone loaning out cats to combat loneliness seems so foreign, yet so appropriate for a Japanese movie.