It’s rare for Fikri Jermadi to start out watching a film academically and end up simply enjoying it for what it is.
I don’t know why, but it seems like Maya Karin is acting in a lot of these movies that challenges what we could consider to be the norm. I have just finished reading Joseph Goh’s ideas about heteronormative sexualities and all that jazz, so do forgive me if that crops up every once in a while.
It and Maya would not be entirely inappropriate in that regard, though. Someone with as varied a background as hers certainly would find it difficult to easily fit into the boxes we have crafted here back home, so perhaps it is not entirely illogical she has portrayed characters with a bit more depth and layer than you might normally find.
Going beyond that, she also appears to be a muse of sorts for Osman Ali, who has directed her in quite a lot of his films. His most recent off the top of my head, ‘Sejoli’, also featured her, though she appears to take a backer seat (if I can be permitted to butcher the English language for a bit) relative to Izara Aisyah.
Here, she plays Bella, and shares the center stage with another girl, Intan (Nur Fazura). Both are gold diggers (known as pisau cukur in Bahasa Malaysia, hence the title), and are looking for the easy life facilitated by marriage to a rich man, preferably a Datuk of sorts. They take a cruise, partly to get away from Maya’s crushingly public failure to get married on a reality TV show. Along the way, though, they inevitably discover life lessons that would stand them in good stead, especially when it comes to the judging of books by covers.
In many respects this film plays out according to expected plot points. The characters we most emphasise with change the most, in accordance with all protagonists. John August’s idea of the protagonist being the one who suffers the most is probably not all that applicable here on the physical level, but there is certainly a degree of emotional and psychological pain that drives both of our characters.
Does it matter, though, that the hurt is derived from a failure to realise their own superficial desires? As much as I am keen to allow for people to do whatever they practically want, the fact remains that I look dimly upon such ideals, primarily because it does not fully realise the potential that lies within; shortcuts are not the same as longer journeys that will fulfill us more.
There is an especial element worth considering here, that of the media. In ‘Cun’, Maya played a character who strives to run away from the public humiliation of having her own love life splashed all over the media. Here, she plays a character who…strives to run away from that same public humiliation. It satires the tendency not only of those who wishes to get married, but also those who denigrate the unmarried. The fact that this is a desire that played out on national television, supported by her airheadedness in her pursuit of the Datuk, further points to a shallow medium of expression.
Here’s the thing, though: the fact that it is shallow does not make it untrue. Whatever I may think of it, it is not any less real. Much like the film itself, then. In terms of substance and gestalt (thank you, Encik Hassan), it seems like the kind of text that wouldn’t be beyond the cotton candy approach. Vivid colours framed straight on with an interesting and direct form of camera work, all done inside the studio that poorly mimics the real world, it nevertheless attains a strong sense of verisimilitude to what it intends to portray (and satire as well, perhaps; I feel like there’s a subversive ploy at work here, too).
Back to the story, then. It seems to proceed smoothly enough, until a Datuk Zakaria (Rahim Razali) is found dead, and fingers are pointed at pretty much everyone, including his children and three(!) wives. Intan teams up with Ari (Aaron Aziz), a private investigator, to solve the mystery. Meanwhile, Bella identified her target, a certain Datuk Hisham (Eizlan Yusof), and strives to seal the deal by winning a dance competition on the cruise with him. However, she lied, saying that she’s good at dancing, and so she practices with Faqir (Redza Minhat), who does appear to have a crush on her.
Not that she’s looking at him twice, though. In essence, her ‘relationship’ with Faqir is indicative of the film as a whole, with all the themes and subtexts crammed into this. It renders the murder mystery as a kind of sideshow to that, but seeing Intan bumble her way from one point to another is also enormously entertaining.
Herein lies the basic experience of the film: it was fun! True, it may well appeal more to those who are attuned to E! and their range of reality TV shows, but quite frankly this was the most fun I had watching a Malaysian film in a long time. Even the little cameos like Afdlin Shauki (as the captain) and the film’s scriptwriter Rafidah Abdullah as a disgruntled receptionist (she did it so well!) were worthy of actual laugh out loud moments.
The sentence above lingers in my head. I had to write ‘actual laugh out loud’, because the abbreviated LOL has been cheapened by those who use it nonchalantly, even when they’re not even smiling. More to the point, though, and going beyond all the critical and academic considerations, as much as this film challenges certain aspects of societies in a number of different ways, at the end of the day it is simply a fun film to watch.
In other words, it is a popcorn film with something to say, an actual laugh out loud film very much wrapped in the letters LOL.
Fikri thinks Redza Minhat looked ridiculously young.
Featured image credit: Jonas Balakauskas