Saturday, May 16, 2009

SELL OUT sells!

Local indie movies are usually not what I have in mind for entertainment. But I have to admit that SELL OUT tickled more than the proverbial funny bone in unexpected ways. Director Yeo Joon Nam’s first full length feature was actually fun and I dare say, sufficiently entertaining to give Singapore’s Jack Neo a run for his money.

I went into the cinema with fingers-crossed, half expecting a kind of cringe-worthy TV drama in widescreen. The place was half empty, but then I said to myself it’s not Slumdog Millionaire. Yeo has talent to spare (even if this is his debut feature) and he’s out to tell us that yes, he’s a serious contender. Well, at least it did not look like a Petronas TV commercial, and it wasn’t all boring talking heads or meandering scenes in cinema verite.

SELL OUT’s wry take on corporate greed, reality shows, art, and our fixation on pan-Asian faces struck a chord. Some scenes were laugh-aloud funny – not because we’ve never seen comedy like this before, but because they were true-to-life. Minutes into the film, I was sold.

But alas, it’s an uneven film. Billed as a musical, the songs were interesting but it would have been good if they were at least, er, hummable (now this is where Yeo can take a leaf out of Jack Neo’s songbook). I thought the whole thing could have worked just as well without the singing bits, clever as they were.

No, it would be unkind to say the multi-talented director was trying to be too clever (he writes, directs, edits, composes the songs). Well, there were lots of clever ideas and vignettes of contemporary Malaysia. And then some. There were just too many ideas popping up in too many directions that I thought he got carried away as auteurs often do. Goes to show how hard it is to make a funny movie.

Nevertheless, the good parts pretty much make up for these missteps. Yeo’s got a keen eye. It’s not a movie to be ashamed of, and I certainly I have no reservation recommending it. Heck, I'll buy the DVD too. Definitely a talent to look out for. Talking about Jack Neo, SELL OUT could almost be a non-Malaysian movie. You know, 110 minutes, and hardly a Malay or Indian in sight (ok, there was an Indian doctor).

Note: SELL OUT won the Venice Young Cinema Award for Alternative Vision. Visit the official website for more news and reviews.

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