Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Review: Best Supporting Actor (Yaak Dai Yin Wah Rak Kan)

  • Directed by Alongod Uabhaibool
  • Starring Nawapon Lumphoon, Thongpoom Siriphiphat, Rujihas Korkiat, Tul Waitoonkiat
  • Released in Thai cinemas on January 14, 2010; rated 15+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 3/5

The best-supporting actor in a triangular romance is actually the star of Best Supporting Actor.

Played by Thongpoom Siriphiphat, Song -- literally "two" if you're counting in Thai -- is a young slacker-dreamer whose rock band has failed. Down on his luck on the mean streets of Bangkok, he's rescued from a beating by motorcycle-taxi drivers by a gang of mods on scooters. The leader of the scooter gang is a childhood friend from Song's hometown, a guy named Gao ("Guy" Nawapon Lumphoon).

Only Song secretly always despised Gao because Gao was more popular, better looking and more successful. Back when they were in school, Gao played the handsome prince in a school play while Song played the rock Gao sat on. Gao also has a nicer place to live. Song finds himself locked out of his dingy little room and Gao generously lets Song become his roommate in the multi-story townhouse.

Another reason to hate the guy. He's too nice. The mod and the rocker are now living together.

Song bumbles around and finds a job in a corner record shop. And it's there he becomes friends with his dream girl, Nhor (Rujihas Korkiat), an artistic sort-of-hippy chick who's heartbroken over her old boyfriend.

What's surprising about Best Supporting Actor (Thai title Yaak Dai Yin Wah Rak Kan, อยากได้ยินว่ารักกัน or literally "I want to hear that you love me") is how long the story is strung out before it is revealed just who that old boyfriend was.

Directed by "Book" Alongod Uabhaibool, who did a feature in 2003 called Koo Tae Patihan (The Whistle) but has mostly made music videos, Best Supporting Actor is energetic yet light. The music-video moments come through in colorful title cards where quotes about love are displayed, and in the stylized techniques that are used to emphasize Song's heartbreak.

Thongpoom and his character Song carry the film as he muses in voiceovers about his sucky life and finds himself in humorous situations as he tries to win Nhor over and make her forget about that old boyfriend. At one point, he borrows his roommate Gao's clothes and tries styling his hair like he's in a Korean boyband. And he looks ridiculous.

More humor comes from singer-songwriter Tul Waitoonkiat, frontman of the indie rock band Apartmentkhunpa. He plays the record store owner and is there to support Song when tragedy strikes and that old boyfriend comes back into Nhor's life.

One funny bit is when the record shop hosts a band. It's Apartmentkhunpa only an actor is filling in as lead singer, prompting Tul's character to wonder, "I bet I can sing better than him". Tul's real-life girlfriend Ploy Horwang, singer of another indie rock band, the Diet Pills (and sis of Cris), makes a cameo.

As Gao, debuting actor Guy Lumphoon -- son of former celebrity couple Marsha Wattanapanich and Amphol Lumphoon -- is an artist who mysteriously broods about whatever young artists brood over. He's not an entirely likeable character.

Played by Rujihas, Nhor is a generally upbeat and independent young woman. At noodle shops, she displays a controlling, obsessive-compulsive trait that runs counter to her free-flowing style -- she will look through an entire box of chopsticks to find a perfectly matched pair and then insist to her dining partner that the soup be slurped loudly in order to get the best flavor.

Perhaps it's because of that O.C. streak that her heart is set on a guy who isn't Song, because Song isn't the perfect match for her.

Heartbreak and misery come from misunderstandings, miscommunication and because of intended surprises that go awry -- the typical kinds of things that happen in romantic comedies like this. Here, it's a tune the musician Song pours his heart into and records on the piano to give to Nhor. But it doesn't work that way for Song's song. For these characters, love is just so damn heavy. They feel like the whole weight of the world is upon them and their life depends on whether that girl or that guy is going to like them or not.

And for that reason, Best Supporting Actor is a youth-oriented romance. Anyone whose hearts have been jaded by the soul-crushing reality of relationships, romance and commitment should not be admitted.

Toward the end there is a fun twist that involves Nhor vomiting, which is Thai movie and TV code for her being pregnant. How did she get knocked up? Have these good Thai girls and boys actually been having sex? Say it ain't so.

The closing credits have a humorous bit involving Song, Gao and Nhor, who are posing for photos or making a video with filmmaker and acting coach Tanwarin Sukkhapisit, adding another light touch to the movie while also enforcing Song's resignation to the fact that he'll always be the best supporting actor in his own life.

Overthinking things for a bit, I wonder if there's a message in there that reinforces Thailand's feudal class-based society? Maybe I'll ponder that as I slurp noodles loudly and looking for matching chopsticks.

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