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Lawrence David Foldes
Lynda Day George
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"It's Like A Romantic Comedy, Without The Romance And The Comedy!"
Saippuaprinssi is a movie about the timid Ilona (Tola) - an amateur wannabe-actress, who incidentally joins the writing staff of a popular daytime soap opera, and falls in love with the hunky star of the show, Kalle (Leppilampi). She soon discovers two things about Kalle: he is a genuinely talented actor who does not enjoy acting in the trashy show, and he's secretly romantically involved with the head writer of the show - the iron-willed Raakel (Mäenpää). To steal her new beloved from the claws of the harpy-like Raakel, Ilona puts her writing skills into action to make Kalle's character in the series prefer a character who resembles her over a character who resembles Raakel. Raakel answers fire with fire, and soon a war occurs between the two rivaling women, with the battle taking place both in the fictional world of the soap opera and in the real one. Evidently, there is room for only one strong woman both in Kalle's heart, and on the set of the series, which becomes wackier and wackier as the war between Ilona and Raakel progresses.
Aside from Mäenpää's marvelous comedic performance as the monstrous Raakel and a hilarious subplot involving a group of young over-the-top avant-garde thespians, there's not much I can say for the movie's advantage. The premise sounds delicious, but the execution is disappointing. Not only is the movie simply unfunny and essentially one-layered, the plot suffers from basic-level technical mistakes like incoherence and plain messiness. The worst thing about the movie is that, due to the shoddy writing, the main characters come off plain dislikable, when they should be genuinely agreeable in order to make the audience give a damn.
Take the leading lady of the movie, Ilona, for an example. The audience is apparently supposed to side with her, even though she comes off as a self-righteous, self-contradicting hypocritical person, who thinks she has a right to meddle with Kalle's life simply because she has a crush on him, and accuses Raakel of being possessive and controlling when she's doing the exact same thing herself. Why should the audience root for her - or for Kalle, who comes off as a spineless idiot who can't even live his own life? Naturally, a love story between characters like these can't be interesting or likable - especially since the movie never shows why these two like each other to begin with, and why the audience should care. The relationship is never fully developed, which is why Ilona's sudden demand to steal Kalle from Raakel by any means possible seems just intrusive and unreasonable.
Interestingly enough, the only character I found relatable and likable in the movie was the main antagonist, Raakel. Thanks to the acting skills of the superb Outi Mäenpää, who makes the character both funny and slightly vulnerable, Raakel has more character and depth to her than Ilona and Kalle have combined. So again, why should the audience prefer the phony Ilona and the whiny Kalle over this strong, witty woman who at least is shown having credible reasons for doing the things she does, as questionable as they might be? Furthermore, I do not like the way the movie pits the middle-aged Raakel against the twenty-something Ilona and makes them fight over the same guy, as though to indicate that when an older woman dates and dominates a younger man, she's a possessive she-devil, but when a younger woman does the same thing, she's just in love. Really, Raakel and Ilona treat Kalle exactly the same way, so the only thing that marks the difference between the heroine and the villainess is the age difference. So, what? Age does matter? Men shouldn't date older women? People in general shouldn't date people who are slightly older than them? Strong middle-aged women are bad? I know I'm probably reading too much into this, but what else was I supposed to think? Disregarding the whole likability factor, the character development is overall rather lousy, and even illogical. For example, Ilona starts off as a timid wallflower, and then she suddenly turns into a confident young woman (complete with the classic "from glasses to contacts" transformation) in the middle of the movie, and yet the change is never directly shown, nor gradually indicated. It just happens. Overall, both Ilona and Kalle remain so distant to the viewer that it's virtually impossible to care about either one, whether they're together or apart. And because of that, it's very difficult to care about the movie in general.
So, in a nutshell, 'Saippuaprinssi' was a huge disappointment to me. The idea sounded clever, but it's not funny, the characters are not likable enough, and the plot is just all over the place. It's trying to be like a Hollywood-like romantic comedy, but it lacks all the technical requirements and genuine charm of the aforementioned. I wish they'd stop trying to incorporate Hollywood storytelling and cinematic conventions into Finnish cinema, because it just doesn't work. It only looks awkward.
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