Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Review: Metrosexual

  • Directed by Yongyooth Thongkongtoon
  • Starring Tienchai Chaisawat, Meesuk Changmeesuk, Patcharasri Bhenjamas, Ornpriya Hunsat, Pimolwan Suppayang, Kulnadda Pajchimsawat, Michael Shaowanasai, Davide Dorigo, Yano Kasuki
  • Released in Thai theaters on July 13, 2006
  • Rating: 3/5

Just because a guy knows how best to cook mushrooms at a suki restaurant, it shouldn’t necessarily make him gay, right? What if he knows where to shop for bargains at the street stalls? Not absolutely gay.

How about if he knows when the Estee Lauder sale ends? Or if he starts giving his girlfriend tips on what foundation suits her?

Okay, this is where you start thinking he’s probably gay.

That’s the message behind Metrosexual (Gang Chanee gap E Ab) the latest comedy from Iron Ladies director Yongyooth Thongkongtoon and starring five female news presenters from Thai TV Channel 3.

Five gal pals meet up for lunch at an MK suki restaurant, during which Pang (Meesuk Changmeesuk) breaks the news that she’s getting married.

There’s Pom (Patcharasri Bhenjamas), the reporter for a women’s magazine; Nim (Ornpriya Hunsat), who works for a company that makes an erectile dysfunction drug; Fyne (Pimolwan Suppayang), the stingy owner of a beauty salon; and Pat (Kulnadda Pajchimsawat), who’s engaged to marry an older Japanese man.

They can’t believe Pang is getting married, and that they didn’t know she’s been seeing this guy for three months.

Then a guy appears at the door of the restaurant. Stylish, with neat eyeglasses, great hair and a sports jacket, he’s wins Fyne’s approval. But when he comes over to sit down next to Pang, they’re all a bit surprised.

He’s introduced as Kong (a tip of the hat to Kong Rithdee, film critic for the Bangkok Post, who coincidentally did the English subtitles for the film release). He starts off by offering tips on how to cook the hotpot meal – garlic isn’t just for spicing up the sauce, you should add some to the soup too. Then, since it’s Pat’s birthday – the real reason the friends decided to meet up – Kong hands over some earrings that he had picked out himself.

Later, the friends, minus Pang, get together at Fyne’s beauty salon. Pom reveals that she’d seen Kong earlier, backstage at a men’s beauty pageant she was covering for the magazine, hugging another man. It was perfectly innocent, but it still looks bad. And don’t you know, all male models are gay.

So Kong must be gay.

The four ladies conspire to find out more about Kong. For help, Pat enlists her gay brother, Bee (Michael Shaowanasai, playing it, um, straight as a Thai Airways flight attendant), who helps the girls create a checklist on ways to tell a guy is gay.

Among the hints: Just because a guy sticks his pinky out when he sips his tea, or wears an earring in the left ear doesn’t matter anymore. But if he gracefully lifts up his foot behind him to check if something’s stuck to his shoe, rather than grabbing his foot and hopping up and down clumsily, then he’s probably gay. Or maybe he just has common sense. Really, some of Bee’s tips are just stupid.

The girls have to check Kong’s background. Was anybody in his family gay? Did he attend a boy’s boarding school? Does he have any gay porn in his apartment?

Finding out answers to these questions means the four ladies must be more and more intrusive.

To get into Kong’s apartment, they set up a fake fortune-telling reading and get Pang to hand over her set of keys – they’re apparently going to press her boyfriend’s apartment key into some wax (hmm, she has a key to his apartment and they haven’t had sex yet?).

Pat and Pom then get past the cross-eyed security guard and check out apartment 69 (a homage to Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s Ruang Talok 69 that prompted snickers from the audience for other reasons) and find that Kong is an obsessive-compulsive neat nut (like another Pen-ek character from Last Life in the Universe). His shirts are arranged by colour and he even folds the end of the toilet paper.

Of course, while Pat and Pom are in the apartment, Kong and Pang arrive, so the intruders have to hide in the shower and barely manage to escape the apartment without being spotted. There, they find a yearbook from a boy’s boarding school, with a possibly incriminating poem scratched out. But no gay porn? Darn!

That’s about the funniest scene in the film, other than the times Michael Shaowanasai is onscreen.

Each of the four friends also have their own love-life problems – Pom is fending off interest from Off (Seed 97.5 DJ Davide Dorigo), the Afro-haired young photographer. Nim is vying with a more extroverted co-worker for the attention of a man in her office. Fyne must find it in her heart to be kind to her hen-pecked husband. And Pat’s older Japanese boyfriend Kengi, played by Yano Kasuki, is having second thoughts after he’s mistaken for Pat’s father too many times.

The best of these pairings are Pom and Off, who have a playful, competitive banter, like a younger brother and older sister. Though Kasuki, who’s a gifted Bangkok-based Japanese mime actor, has his moment demonstrating how he orders roast chicken and som tam.

Like all romantic comedies, the big revelation disrupts the wedding. And from there the movie takes a confusing and depressing turn that’s probably meant to represent the kind of confusion that people feel when they are denying their own sexual orientation.

And it struggles to regain its footing, tie up loose ends and somehow end the story on a positive note, which it still manages to do, at least for straight women. It's pretty depressing if you're gay, because the movie paints them as outsiders, scamming for tricks in parking lots near oil refineries.

But the real the loser is the so-called metrosexual guy – who knows about art, culture and fashion, could care less about sports, doesn't drink beer, gets manicure-pedicures and has at least a little compassion for other people’s feelings.

It seems the message in Metrosexual is that women don’t want a sensitive guy. So, it’s okay to be a dumb, uncaring slob. According to this film, that’s apparently what every woman wants.

See also:

(Corss-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

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