Thursday, January 7, 2010

Review: 32 Thunwa

  • Directed by Rergchai Paungpetch
  • Starring Dan Worrawech, Choosak Eamsuk, Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, Ramida Mahapreukpong, Sitang Punnapob
  • Released in Thai cinemas on December 30, 2009; rated 15+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 2/5

I didn't understand 32 Thunwa (32 ธันวา). I thought the set-up was too contrived, the jokes were too labored and the conclusion utterly ridiculous. And the English title 32 December Love Error sounds like gibberish.

But the movie has raked in around 40 million baht and topped the Thai box office, trouncing the Hollywood heavyweight Avatar.

So what's the point of trying to make sense of this movie?

There is no point. Except to assemble an appealing young cast and have them skitter through a loosely formed succession of gags. Oh, that is the point.

Dan Worrawech stars as guy who gets a bump on the noggin while tending goal during a soccer match. That's the second time in the past year this type of injury has been used as a plot device. Last year, it was seen in Phee Tum Tim, a comedy so foul it was shelved by the studio for five years before being released.

32 Thunwa probably isn't that bad, so I digress.

At a clinic, Dan's character Note ends up with the same queue number "6" as another patient, Joe, gamely played by comedian Choosak "Nong Chachacha" Eamsuk. Or is it the No. 9? There are methods from keeping those numbers from being confused, but for whatever reason the queuing system in this movie does not employ them.

So, against medical ethics, both patients go in to see the doctor at the same time.

Well, hey, the partner-patients idea worked pretty good for Jason Schwartzman and Mark Wahlberg in David O. Russell's I Heart Huckabees.

But 32 Thunwa is nowhere near as clever or as energetic as I Heart Huckabees.

Somehow, Note comes to believe that as the result of his head injury, he's suffering a psychological condition that will only be cured if he can figure out which girl he truly loves.

With the help of Joe, who is suffering a rectal dysfunction, Note assesses all the women in his life. Scrolling through his phone, he first decides to take a trip to Chiang Mai to see a female friend ("Pai" Sitang Punnapob). She is tall and light skinned, and is love with her boyfriend, who is short, plump and dark-skinned, but acts like he is a ladies man and treats his women poorly. This makes her so mad, she kicks Note in the chest.

That's supposed to be funny, at least it was to most everyone else in the audience.

Note then has to reconcile with his girlfriend Noon (Ramida Mahapreukpong). She has all the appearances of a proper young woman, teaching in a music pre-school.

But late one night, Note steers his SUV into one of those curtained drive-in "love" hotels, and finds out Noon knows more about the seedier side of life than she lets on -- like the names of the Japanese porn stars on the hotel's TV, how to open a bottle of beer without an opener and how to open her throat and guzzle that bottle in one gulp. Note, having had a beer himself, curls up on the round bed and falls asleep, leaving Noon frustrated. This is probably the best scene in the film, and it's in the trailer.

So maybe Noon isn't the girl for Note.

Note, though he's never seen doing any actual work except noodling about in his bedroom music studio, runs the family business, an upscale hair salon. The place is so exclusive, it rarely seems to have customers. The lone employee, an ambiguously gay guy named Boyd (Padung Songsaeng), arrives in a chauffeur-driven sportscar.

Note shares the business and living quarters with his step-sister May, who are now both without parents.

May is due to depart for schooling in Germany, which is a nice touch, since she is played by Apinya Sakuljaroensuk, who recently played a Cambodian woman in the German movie Same Same But Different. May is fashionably coiffed with the type of bobbed bowl-style haircut that is probably popular in South Korea, which is why it's being copied in Thailand.

Before she goes to Germany, May has covered Note's room in Post-It notes to remind him to pay his bills and buy groceries. Some are elaborately illustrated with cartoons. One says "ich lieb dich".

Could it be that Note's step-sister -- she's not a blood relation after all -- is the girl he really loves?

He'd better decide, because she's getting engaged to Noon's brother Noom on December 31 -- yes, an engagement party on New Year's Eve, when all the hotels are booked out anyway. I suppose it's possible.

In addition to the young cast, there's a few cameos by veteran comedians. One is a surprise appearance that's kept until the end, and it helps make 32 Thunwa at least watchable.

Kom Chanchuen turns up in another amusing bit, in which he's "Indie" -- an independent musician who states that he works for neither Grammy nor RS Promotion, Thailand's two major music labels.

It's a sly dig by the movie's producers at their former bosses at RS, where they used to work for the Avant film company before going off on their own when the company restructured.

This is the first production by the new M39 company, which has commissioned an epic animated production logo that is full of explosions and all sorts of things -- promises of things yet to come, but not really fulfilled in 32 Thunwa.

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