A Park 'n' Shop employe named Ken Nakagawa makes his acting debut in the romantic comedy "Living on Tokyo Time," so it's no surprise that it sometimes seems like standing in a checkout line. Still, this low-budget meditation on rock, roots and romance has its charms.

It's the first feature film by Steven Okazaki, a documentary maker who cowrote the sly, understated screenplay with John McCormick, a former colleague from his days in a punk band. "Tokyo's" hero Ken would be a rock 'n' roller, too, if he had any ambition. But his brain's on hold, without the Muzak that might irritate him into some action. He's as inert as neon -- a far cry from the high-achieving Asian stereotype, as a janitor who plays basement-band guitar and subsists on junk food.

We meet him sitting on the edge of the bed eating Trix as his girlfriend storms out the door forever. "Are you breaking up with me?" he asks, imperturbably spooning up the colorful but no doubt nutritious breakfast nuggets. The door slams and the postnihilistic young adult begins his day, with Nakagawa playing him as deadpan as a cast-iron skillet. Just what the director wanted.

Okazaki contrasts this aimless, assimilated third-generation American with Kyoko, a nouvelle Nipponese -- polite, shy, wry and wearing a T-shirt that says Callege {sic} Gal. Drama student Minako Ohashi subtly shades the role, giving tea ceremony classicism to this Tokyo teen. She plays the Honda to Ken's Ford Fairlane, the eel in a box to his Chicken McNuggets.

At first, theirs is a listless, cross-cultural marriage, with the Department of Immigration playing Cupid. Kyoko, who came to America after breaking it off with her fiance', needs her green card, but she isn't ready for love. She keeps too busy, washing dishes by day and studying English by night, sweeping up Ken's Cheetos crumbs.

Ken, however, begins to think of their relationship in terms of a traditional, arranged marriage, and his life takes a shape -- albeit a little blowsy. The pensive Kyoko keeps a polite distance, calling him Mr. Ken, even after they've slept together. Gradually she gets homesick, not to mention bored with her husband. "Do you remember the nice Japanese American?" she writes home. "He is dead."

Their bittersweet love story evolves as quietly as Wayne Wang's "Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart." It's not of the same caliber, but Okazaki seems headed in the right direction, coaxing nice performances from his amateur stars. Unfortunately, there's the making-a-statement stuff that clutters the central plot along with a determined-to-be-zany cast of beginning actors who appear all the more strident opposite the calm of the leading players.

They're meant to demonstrate how completely Japanese Americans have been absorbed by this culture, as opposed to Wang's Chinese Americans, who retain some tradition. Okazaki's people fit in with a vengeance. Belonging is a major character trait, he says. Ken's sister Mimi (Mitzie Abe) is a high school cheerleader turned real estate agent, who discusses fiber with her American mutt of a husband. And the waitress at his sushi bar is a loud redhead who'd seem more at home in a truck stop.

Some of Okazaki's asides do work, but most detract from the heart of "Living on Tokyo Time," which captures that sense of permanent jet lag combined with timid love. It speaks for the maybes, the uncommitted majority.

Living on Tokyo Time, at the Circle West End, is unrated but contains no objectionable material.