Tuesday, April 28, 2009

SELL OUT: A Refreshingly New Black Comedy

SELL OUT! (black comedy)
Cast: Jerrica Lai, Peter Davis, Hannah Lo, Kee Thuan Chye and Lim Teik Leong
Director: Yeo Joon Han
Time: 86 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

PREAMBLE: If Singapore has its Jack Neo, Malaysia may soon find its equivalent in Yeo Joon Han, a film-maker who writes, edits, directs and composes the songs as well. And from the critical and international film fest accolades, his first feature movie has received so far, Sell Out! (or $Ell.Ou7!) may be to Malaysia what Slumdog Millionaire was to India.

Okay, that may be trying to oversell Sell Out! but there were reports of the movie being well received by viewers in Singapore (at the Singapore International Film Fest), the Venice International Film Festival 2008 (where it won the Altre Visioni Award), the Golden Horse Festival in Taiwan (where it won NETPAC Award) and in Thailand.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? There are two main storylines running parallel, and they are connected to the FONY Corporation headed by two CEOs (played by Kee Thuan Chye and Lim Teik Leong). One thread deals with Rafflesia Pong (Jerrica Lai), a struggling TV arts show host who would do anything to compete with vivacious Eurasian reality show host Hannah (Hannah Lo) for the survival of her show.

The other is about Eric Tan (Peter Davis), FONY's product engineer who has just built an eight-in-one soyabean machine that is rejected by his two bosses because it works well and is supposed to last indefinitely.

HITS & MISSES: Like Jack Neo at his wild, wild best, nothing is sacred to Yeo too. He opens the movie poking fun at 'himself' - and at art-house movie makers. Then he seems to be aiming for everything and anything - and especially at violence and death! Yes, this is film noir at its weirdest when we see Rafflesia hunting down prospective suicide cases and dying people for her new 'reality show'. Ironically, the movie's best laugh comes from the scene where she interviews a man on his death bed, seeking his opinion about local politics.

There are times when Yeo goes amok (which, ironically again, is the name of the movie's website at www.amokfilms.com) and takes potshots at disappearing sales people; at the lengths people would go through to get a taxi; at irritating idiots who dial wrong numbers; at unscrupulous doctors who would do anything for a quick buck; at Chinese 'bomohs', etc. Why, the characters, including those who are dying, even break into song - and therein lies the surreal and infectious charm of the movie.

Thanks to Yeo's good sense of timing, most of these scattershot gags find their mark. Some may not evoke the laugh-out-loud reactions but many are 'giggly-funny'. Of course, there are some minor irritants - like the repetitious "Don't but me, I hate people who but me" gag and some 'empty' moments - but we can let them go.

Performance-wise, Yeo manages to get a great deal out of his cast - with Jerrica Lai standing out from the others. Jerrica has that gutsy, try-anything attitude that would be at home with the kiasu-crowd of Singapore. Peter Davis, a model, looks promising in his first endeavour. However, to most people, the best part of Sell Out! is its refreshing new take on local comedy - the absence of stupid slapstick, and a script that does not insult our intelligence.

THE LOWDOWN: Sell Out! has been making waves overseas and all over Asia. Don't miss it when it opens in Malaysia.


At 10:58 pm, Blogger McGarmott said...

You know, Uncle Lim, the problem with writing such agreeable movie reviews every time is that it really doesn't leave much room for anyone to comment about it!

No, I wasn't, err, sucking up to you ...

At 12:32 am, Blogger Lim Chang Moh said...

Ya, like the Forgetful CEO said, I hate people who suck up to me - not even if it is done in a good way.

I have also posted this review on IMDB. Thanks for inviting us to the screening.


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