Wrong ingredients and wrong cooking method = a dish that is hard to chew and swallow
Rice Rhapsody may sound promising, in terms of making its ways to several film festival, a pretty well known cast and crew (Taiwanese award winning actress Sylvia Chang and world acclaimed celebrity chef Martin Yan as the leading cast, with Jackie Chan as the executive producer), and together with the help of Singapore Film Commission. However, the serving of chicken rice turns out to be tasteless and tough.
This is young director Kenneth Bi's debut feature, where Rice looks like a movie from the final year students in a movie school doing its final year project.
Sylvia and Martin were horribly miscast as the role of Jen, a chicken rice seller, and Kim Shui, a duck rice seller. Jen and Kim Shui are rivals in business, as their stall is just opposite one another. However, Kim Shui is a bachelor who admires Jen, and try all ways to woo Jen.
Jen no longer trusted any man after her husband left her 16 years ago. With her secret chicken rice recipe, she brought up her 3 sons. However, Daniel and Harry, who are the 1st and 2nd son, turns out to be gays. Jen placed her bet on Leo, the youngest son, who is barely a teenager around 15 and 16 years old, to breed an offspring for the family line. Fearing that Leo would follow his brothers footsteps, Jen and Kim Shui try all ways to match him with Sabine, a female French exchange student who is coming to Singapore.
A night of passion with Sabine and the loss of his bestfriend makes Leo discover his sexual orientation. Kim Shui comes out with new duck dishes that beats Jen's chicken rice business. Double pressure coming down together makes Jen loses hope on the people around her, except for Sabine, where Sabine teaches Jen that there are more things in life to look out for.
It just sounds like your typical family drama, where someone wants to go their way, while others are trying to pull the whole family together. In terms of being a family drama, Rice has achieved only about 50% of it. The main focus on the film is all about how Jen is trying to prevent Leo from becoming a gay, so as to pass down the family line.
Placing Sylvia Chang the role of a typical Singaporean housewife is a bad choice. Poor language usage of dialogues in the film worsen the whole movie. No matter how hard Sylvia try to speak like a Singaporean women, her American accent English simply pulls her effort down, making whatever she said sounds pretendous.
Placing Martin Yan as Kim Shui is the worst choice. His heavy American accent English do not sound like a typical Singaporean hawker who owns a duck rice stall at your neighbourhood Singaporean coffeeshop (and i do not mean Starbucks in American terms.) Instead of using Chinese dialects, Mandarin and Singapore style English in the film, perfect English were used instead, giving Singaporean audience a good laugh, where two non-Singaporean Chinese were chosen to play Singaporeans. It puts the audience into a big puzzle: is this an total English speaking Singapore production? The ending of the film lacks punch, where Leo and Jen participated in a cooking competition. No tense atmosphere, no grand showdown, just the love between a mother and her son. Apparently, wrong location was chosen for both the mother and the son to express their love for each other.
Though Rice was slapped with an M18 rating (which refers to not suitable for audience aged 18 and below) for discussing and glorifying homosexuality, Rice is not a gay drama. It looks into the love between a mother and her gay sons, her acceptance of homosexuality and how to strike a balance between her traditional values and homosexuality.
If more details could be put in and having Singaporean cast to play the role of Jen and Kim Shui, the chicken rice would taste much more better.
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