I was invited by McGarmott to the press screening of SELL OUT! last week. It is a movie written, directed, edited and produced by local boy Yeo Joon Han, won some awards, received massive love and accolades in Italy and opens in Malaysia at selected cinemas today.
Synopsis: Her name is Rafflesia Pong (Rafflesia=largest flower in the world, which reeks of animal carcass; Pong=stink). She’s a bottom-ranking arts show host who’s disillusioned with “those over-rated underachievers we call artists.” He’s Eric Tan (Eric=Eric, Tan=typical Chinese surname), a product designer who’s just about to learn that it doesn’t pay to be creative. They both work for FONY, a multinational conglomerate whose mission statement, copied from a Taiwanese company, is to be original. In the face of such pressure, will Eric and Rafflesia retain their artistic integrity or will they finally sell out to fame, fortune or some other nasty thing that also starts with “F”?
Thoughts in no particular order. Note – some spoilers:
- Aplenty references that may make sense to people who go for indie movies/ arts stuff and are generally perceived to be more cultured than me or you because they ‘get it’. It’s not a bad thing, can be rather funny IF you get it.
- Jerrica Lai as Rafflesia Pong was the best thing that happened to the movie. I loved, loved, LOVED her acting from the beginning till the end.
- Aplenty Malaysian jokes, or situations any Malaysians/ Singaporeans would immediately notice and smile (bashfully ‘cos we all did it before!). So we do have more in common than not, heh.
- However I felt that most of those jokes were a couple scenes too long and needlessly repeated, e.g. two ladies fighting for cab, wrong person on the phone, Forgetful CEO and his “Don’t But Me!”, Eric’s explanation of why he talks the way he does, etc. Maybe audience not familiar with our jokes will appreciate the elaboration. For me, I felt like, okay we got it the first time round, let’s move on.
- Peter Davis as Eric Tan was not very compelling. Nothing against him, he’s cute in a MTV VJ sort of way, and I understand that this is his first acting gig. A bit like Keanu Reeves in most of his acting gigs, heh.
- I have always liked Kee Thuan Chye. Actually, him being in the movie was one of the reasons why I wanted to watch it. Of course the dude was good.
- Hannah Lo = pretty. Character = bitchy. Acting = errr, can definitely improve.
- Plot was a bit everywhere. I understood after a while, but it took some time.
- Movie runs for 106 mins. It felt like 2 full hours because like I said, I found many parts to be draggy and unnecessary.
- I didn’t appreciate the camera shaking around during the first half of the movie. Pissed me off and gave me a slight headache. Later I was informed as to why they made it so. Understood their reasons, but I still didn’t like it.
- I thought the spontaneous singing was all right. What’s this about people not appreciating semi-musicals? Sweeney Todd sucked ass okay :P My only thought is that they must be inserted intelligently and there should be a gauge if it works to play half a song or the entire tune. Shorter if the vocals are not that awesome. Okay I know some people are going to bring up Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia! The Movie. I think that worked and I’ll tell you why – he was horrible, he knew he was horrible, but the songs were familiar and the scenes were animated and funny or unintentionally funny.
- Must mention: one of my favourite scenes is why the old lady ended up nearly dying, heh. Brilliant. I like flashbacks done ala Family Guy. Trey Parker and Matt Stone would hate it though. Who gives a toss about them?
- It’s funny that Yeo Joon Han (screenplay writer, director, editor, producer) is so self-deprecating, doesn’t take himself and what he does way too seriously (you know who you are, artsy directors who favour 10-second scenes of blue skies and coconut trees blowing in the mild breeze, bleargh!). You’ll understand why as you watch the movie.
- The first screen shot I posted above with Rafflesia standing in front of a family – the scene came together brilliantly and I thought it was one of the funnier side-stories. The ‘family’ members were great.
- There was a moment when the two CEOs were singing, then muted, then singing resumed. I liked the sequence.
In a summary, I find SELL OUT! the movie watch-able. Some draggy parts, perhaps more stringent editing work needed. Miles better than a lot of local movies (and actually, a lot of foreign ones), fresh direction in our local movie scene, brave move on the director’s part. I think you should go watch it and watch it fast at the cinemas. You know lah, Star Trek screening and all, our local cinemas tend not to screen local movies for a long time. Check out the brilliant trailer below!