An emotionally invested enthusiast of pop culture in the guise of a Copywriter. Apathetic by design. Aesthetically offensive and eloquently candid. A sentimental heathen.

This movie breaks my two month streaks of not going to the cinema on Thursday to watch an Indonesian movie on its release date. My last #KamisKeBioskop was Aach… Aku Jatuh Cinta, and it wasn’t as pleasant as I expected. Weirdly, this time it was the opposite. Or maybe it’s just because there’s no unfortunate memories attached to this viewing experience. Anyway.

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Bian (Karina Salim) decided it’s about time she move to Jogja, leaving Jakarta and her mother (Unique Priscilla) for good. Because she’s tired of her abusive father (Ray Sahetapy) and her cheating best friend Letisha (Adinda Thomas). At least I think that’s what this movie tried to convey.

However in Jogja, she turned into a recluse, only interacting on minimum basis with her aunt (Dewi Irawan), Jaime Lannister-esque cousin Kevin (Ridwan Ghany), and her weirdly affectionate-slash-hugger classmate Vanessa (Stella Cornelia). But it all changes when she finally meet her prince charming: a “giant” with troubling background and tarnished reputation called Gabriel (Abrar Adrian).

 

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This movie had the bad luck of an unconvincing trailer and unconvincing source material, with Monty Tiwa’s name as its only sliver of hope. So my expectation bar was quite low, and maybe that’s why Raksasa Dari Jogja was quite enjoyable as an okay movie. Nothing exceptional, a typical feel good movie to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside… if you manage to plant some emotional investment on it. Which I didn’t. And maybe that’s why I spent 99 minutes nitpicking and fussing over the little details. Because, in my honest opinion, it could have been better.

First and foremost, watching this movie is like watching scenes from a novel. In a bad way. It’s like someone read the novel and then decided to adapt it scene-by-scene, but forget that in movie you don’t actually have extra paragraph to further explain that particular scene. There wasn’t enough background on Bian’s friendship with Letisha or why her father is so adamant on sending her to UI – without even specifying which faculty or department. Those aren’t two convincing “moment of truth”, those are two random moments with too little emotional depth to be a catalyst. I don’t know about you, but I’d personally need more logical reasons to pack up and leave. Plus, there was no hint about her being accepted in UNY or having family there who would willingly take care of her. Which only serves to make her decision seems as brash and irresponsible as a child’s tantrum.

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And this problem continues even until the end of the movie. There barely is anything to explain the characters’ motives, why they acted like that and why they did what they did. Those are just two dimensional characters in sequences of seemingly intertwining moments which, upon closer look, are quite disjointed. Not as incoherent as BvS, obviously, but still are just separate stories being told one after another for the sake of moving the plot. Really, until the very end, I’m not sure I actually got Bian’s reason for leaving right. Or who Gabriel is as a person. Most importantly though, I have no idea whether Kevin is just an overprotective big brother type or if he genuinely have a crush on his cousin. Oh, and Bian’s emotional outburst merely have skin-deep reasoning, making her seems like a little child. I will never forget that scene where she rant at Gabriel for being such an emotional brute while banging the table and throwing shits off . Lady, you’re in desperate need for a mirror.

Thing is, this movie could have been so much more. If they actually put some time to focus on Bian’s personal problem and character development, I might fell for it. The synopsis said things about how despite having a seemingly perfect life, her reality was the exact opposite. Had this been given a proper exploration, Bian could be a relatable character and it would explain why she was so uncomfortable anytime anyone commented on her life or her father. Like that time Gabriel tell her she’s lucky. Which legit made me threw popcorn at the screen and sent one paragraph all-capslock rant about him because HOW DARE YOU MAKE SUCH ASSUMPTION, YOU PRESUMPTUOUS BASTARD. You know, if we could actually see how “perfect” her life is, we might understand where Gabriel come from and how all those contradiction tip Bian over her breaking point.

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Then, of course, there is the problem of her abusive father. Correct me if I’m wrong, but as far as I know, it is not that fucking easy to get out of an abusive relationship. If there were some scenes showing how uncomfortable her mother is or at least her contemplating her life, I would nod at her catalyst and applaud her for finally taking a stance. But there are no such thing, and I wound up frowning because… really? That’s all? Furthermore, the portrayal of her father was, while not problematic, left me perturbed. I understand why everyone would think he is a “charming politician”, because it is the typical modus operandi of an abuser: put on a charming façade outside and unleash the savagery behind closed door. But there was no sign of that charismatic persona, and it makes no sense for him to let someone outside the family witness his violent bouts.

So maybe it was a case of bad writing, a mediocre adaptation from a regrettable source material. But good actors could save even unbecoming script, and this movie sadly doesn’t have that. The two main characters looks like they were told to show a certain kind of emotion while saying such dialogue, without profoundly understanding the reasons. And that’s why I can’t relate to neither of them. I mean, Karina Salim was good in Durable Love – annoying but still adorable – and she had quite a repertoire. So to see her “Bian” persona is…such a shame. Considering Abrar Adrian is a basketball player turned actor though, his stoic performance was quite passable. And the two are not that bad, all in all. It’s just the supporting characters gave stronger and better performance, making them pale in comparison. Ray Sahetapy doesn’t even need much words to be oppressive, Dwi Sasono’s Angkola was genuine breathe of fresh air whom I can’t get enough of, Ridwan Ghany’s Kevin was quite appealing and honestly had finer chemistry with Karina compared to Abrar, Stella’s Vanessa was nice eye candy whose cheeks you’d want to pinch, and even Unique gave off a convincing performance as a suffering mother. But the two main characters? There is no way in hell I’d have any semblance of emotional investment to them. Except maybe exasperation.

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I’m not saying Raksasa Dari Jogja is bad, but it is a mediocre movie better suited as FTV rather than the silver screen. There were some aesthetic shots with impressive framing, and scenes that could have been emotional if you’re invested on the characters. They also had the courtesy of giving everyone a proper, though rushed, closure. And attempting a fourth-wall-break twist which didn’t quite work, but still worth an appreciation. If cheese is your kind of platter, you might actually enjoy this movie and it’s cutesy love story. Although I personally am more interested in Angkola’s story instead of Bian and Gabriel. Hey, at least it reminds you to not judge someone without getting to know them first.

 

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Director: Monty Tiwa. Writers: Ben Sihombing and Monty Tiwa. Released on: 31st March 2016. Casts: Karina Salim, Abrar Adrian, Ridwan Ghany, Stella Cornelia, Dwi Sasono, Unique Priscilla, Ray Sahetapy.

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