Monday, April 18, 2011

HELLO STRANGER - Another Thai Charmer

HELLO STRANGER (Thai romantic comedy)
Cast: Neungthida Sophon, Chantavit Dhanasevi and Chantawit Thanasewee
Director: Banjong Pisanthanakun
Writers: Nontra Kumwong, Banjong Pisanthanakun and Chantawit Thanasewee
Time: 130 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

Neungthida Sophon and Chantavit Dhanasevi on location in Seoul

PREAMBLE: It is a bit over-contrived and long-drawn at over two hours but this Thai rom-com looks set to win over its audience with its likeable stars. Also, director Banjong Pisanthanakun, who gave us Shutter (2004) and Alone (2007) makes a strong debut in the romantic-comedy genre with this fluffy, crowd-pleasing tale.

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? After being dumped by his girlfriend, a drunken Thai guy (Chantavit Dhanasevi) joins a tour to Seoul. Also on the same tour is a pretty Thai girl (Neungthida Sophon, left) who is going to South Korea to attend a friend's wedding. They meet when she finds him in a drunken stupor outside her hostel. She helps look for his hotel and they end up having to team up together to tour Seoul. Compelled to be 'stuck' with each other, they make a pact not to divulge each other's name and identity - despite travelling together, staying in the same room and sharing intimate secrets and traipsing all over the country.

HITS AND MISSES: According to the production notes, Seoul is a popular destination with the Thais because they have been fascinated by Korean sit-coms and soap operas - and of course, its kimchi. Given its travelogue movie setting, it is easy for writer-director Pisanthanakun (pic, right) to present catchy situations in attractive locations and tourist spots. Like, having its male lead Dhanasevi eat a live octopus in a dare; having the two 'strangers' check into a sleazy, one-night-stand motel, and even gambling in a posh casino. Of course, how these two get the money for all the extravagance and indulgences is not explained.

Still, the target audience - young courting couples - will not be too bothered with such plot-holes or even why they see the need to remain 'strangers' even when they have fallen in love with each other. Also, some scenes appear phoney, and many are repetitive and tiresome to watch, making the movie even longer than the two-hour footage. Still, at the end of it, we find ourselves falling for the charms of Sophon and Dhanasevi - two fresh faces with sparkling chemistry.

THE LOWDOWN: Definitely a date movie.


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