I have just finished a Japanese Drama called “Kazoku no Katashi“, loosely translated as “Family’s Form”. I have watched a few movies and dramas where Ueno Juri acted in but never noticed that she was such a good actress.
The first movie that I watched was where she played a high school girl in Swing Girls. It was a delightful movie about a group of girls starting a jazz band and learning to play in a band from scratch. She was funny, a bit silly and adorable. Oh and the actresses really learned to play their instruments for the movie.
I also remembered her in Nodame Cantabile where she acted as a genius musician but was off beat and also silly. It was funny but after awhile, the characters got a bit tiresome.
The last movie that I saw her in was Hidamari no Kanojo or “The Girl in the Sunny Place”. I really liked this one. Her character was different from the last few productions and this was the first time I saw her in a love story. She was good and her acting touching, but it never occurred to me that she was special (though it was easy to see she outshone her co-star).
However, when I saw her in Kazoku no Katachi, she was in the role of a grown up career women in a supervisory role with a no nonsense attitude (in the beginning anyway). It was quite a change from the roles she played in the past and I was impressed. Most Japanese actresses or actors tend to act the same no matter what role or character he or she is given (think Fukuda Kyoko). However, Ueno Juri outdid herself as Kumagai Hanako this time!
Her portrayal as a person with uncompromising ideas with a straight talking style came across wonderfully. It also did not have the over-the-top acting that could be seen from some actors. Her changes in facial expressions in mid shots show the stellar actress that I have come to realise that she is. Perhaps she has matured as an actress. In any case, I am pleasantly surprised by her this time. I can say that she is probably one of the best, if not the best, Japanese actress I have seen.