- Directed by Tanwarin Sukkhapisit
- Starring Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, Makoto Koshinaka, Settapong Piangpor, Supanart Jittaleela, Nawapol Lampoon
- Released in Thai cinemas on September 25, 2014; rated 15+
- Wise Kwai's rating: 4/5
Off the top of my head, I can't think of any cases where directors and their lead actresses might have shared the same shade of lipstick. But if there have been any such cinematic cosmetic collaborations, it's unlikely they were as fruitful as Love Sud Fin Sugoi (ฟินสุโค่ย), an eye-poppingly slick romantic comedy by Tanwarin Sukkahpisit and starring Apinya Sakuljaroensuk.
"Saipan" Apinya, who memorably made her debut in 2007 with an Afro hairstyle in Pen-ek Ratanaruang's Ploy, has long been a favorite actress of Thailand's indie directors, turning in solidly dramatic performances in such films as I Carried You Home and most recently in Concrete Clouds. She's had supporting roles in a dozen or so Thai mainstream comedies and romances, but none have allowed her to stretch her talents like she does in Fin Sugoi.
Working for the first time with popular director "Golf" Tanwarin, Saipan and the transgender director seem to have inspired each other.
With bright red lipstick, long straight black hair and a goth-rock wardrobe possibly borrowed from Golf, Saipan gives a force-of-nature performance as Noona, a domineering young Thai woman who is obsessed with Japanese rock star Makoto. But when her screaming-schoolgirl devotion to the hair-metal singer goes too far, her long-time boyfriend, the jealous judo-practicing Khrong (Tao Settapong) calls it quits. Noona then wins a chance to star in a music video with Makato, but she's torn by her feelings for Khrong and misgivings when romance with her rock idol becomes all too real.
Meanwhile, everyone in Noona's close circle of friends is looking for love in all the wrong places. Noona's best friend, the tomboy folksinger and pub owner Ham (Yes or No star Tina Suppanart) has attracted the attention of platonic guy pal Tong (Guy Nawapol), but lesbian Ham has long held a hidden torch for the glamorous Noona. And the hot-headed Khrong is tentatively crushed on by stepbrother Noi, who is still unsure about his sexuality, even as his best friend Toh good-naturedly flirts with him. And an orange-haired girl (Chicha Ammartyakun) who's always hanging around Ham's music pub is on the sidelines, waiting to scoop up whatever guy is left broken-hearted by Noona and Ham.
Fans of the cult-hit lesbian romance Yes or No get a scene made just for them, with a dream sequence involving Tina Suppanart that demonstrates just how sexually flexible Noona and her friends might be.
Fin Sugoi touches on several trends and issues in contemporary Thai culture. The backdrop is Thai society's continuing fascination with Japanese culture, especially J-rock, the '90s-style hair metal that's been popular in Thailand a lot longer and seems way cooler than the more-recent South Korean pop imports.
The romance is also a relaxed look at sexuality and the fluid nature of relationships with family and friends. And there's a look at how the media are manipulated into reporting on scandals by unscrupulous managers hoping to drum up publicity for their celebrities.
The film hooks audiences in with a fast and furious first half, punctuated by tasty licks of Japanese rock. The soundtrack then turns to quiet piano and guitar ballads for a slower second half that has Khong trying to win back Noona's heart and Noona feeling conflicted about her romance with the much-older Makoto. Portrayed by the actual musician, the frontman for Lucifer and now the Trick Band, Makoto turns out to be a bit creepy even if he seems geniunely sweet. The pace slackens a bit too much toward the end, leaving me to wonder if a bit of tightening here and there could have trimmed the 110-minute running time. But that's my only quibble.
It's an attractive production, offering a glimpse of the colorful cos-play scene in Bangkok's Siam Square, lounging for drinks and music in one of the city's trendy Thai pubs (the kind with antiques and weird stuff on the walls) and taking in the energy of a J-rock show, where the screaming fans are as big a part as what's onstage. There's even a beautifully framed dream journey or flashback to Japan, where Noona and Khong first fell in love.
A music-video shoot offers more chances for Saipan to don different costumes and wigs, each a jaw-dropping revelation. As a humorous aside, the music video's grumpy director is actual music-video director Alongod "Book" Uabhaibool.
At the local box office, Fin Sugoi hasn't performed all that strong, earning just around 5 million baht at last count. However, the film had its world premiere in Japan, back in March at the Osaka Film Festival, and it's at fests like that where Fin Sugoi will likely be most appreciated.