A satirical drama about how a nation's obsession with shopping changes the course of one woman's life. Clara, a forty year old 'tai tai' (wealthy lady of leisure) faces a mid life crisis ...
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A satirical drama about how a nation's obsession with shopping changes the course of one woman's life. Clara, a forty year old 'tai tai' (wealthy lady of leisure) faces a mid life crisis and decides to runaway to the only place that has ever made any sense to her - the shopping centres. As she lives there, Clara crosses paths with other 'creatures' of the mall, namely Renu, an eight-year old latchkey kid who has been abandoned by her parents in a 24 hour mall and Aaron, an angst-y twenty three year old who skives work to hang out at the mall with his friends. Together, these characters lead audiences through a journey of love, loss and liberation through the heart of Singapore where they find that their dreams can be bought and broken.Written by
Wee Li Lin
Singaporeans are known for our passion for food, be it either great tasting humble hawker fare, or exquisite fine dining at various swanky restaurants. Food has been featured in a number of our local movies, with yellow flat noodles being the Mee Pok in Mee Pok Man, Chicken Rice in Chicken Rice War, and the ubiquitous coffeeshop locales in almost all of director Jack Neo's movies. The other passion we have is for shopping, no doubt with our most famous road being Orchard Road, for its malls and food of course, and the various generic shopping malls (with almost the same shops, that each mall seemed xeroxed from the preceding success story) that have sprung up in various neighbourhood heartland town centers all over the island.
It's only a matter of time that a movie like Gone Shopping will find its way to our cinematic screens, with its premise firmly set around our obsession with shopping, which some have said is one of our national pastimes. Writer-director Wee Li Lin, better known for her short films, makes her feature film debut with this movie, and it actually took her years to crystallize her ideas for the film. After all, if you want to incorporate a national pastime, you sure would want to do it right!
But what Li Lin did was a whole lot more. Gone Shopping, through its many characters, leading and supporting, all manage to touch on the psyche of Singapore. Having developed a keen eye in observing people, Li Lin managed to craft intricate characters for Gone Shopping, without the pitfalls of having caricature them into typical stereotypes. The first few minutes were pure genius, adding a subtle tracking of the evolvement of our malls and its impact to our pop culture (remember the Centrepoint kids?) through the eyes of one of the protagonist, Clara (played by Kym Ng), a rich man's tai-tai (translated by the official website as "wealthy lady of leisure") who seem to have everything material, but yearning for a connection that is deep and emotional.
And starting with Clara, we get introduced to the various hopes and dreams of the characters in Gone Shopping, which I thought was interesting and intriguing enough to hold you attention, and want to make you find out more as the story unravels. Through three story arcs whose characters rarely interact with one another, they share a common thread, and that is the need to escape from the cold harsh realities of their unsatisfactory life, through, what else, their various periods of stay in malls, where they can enjoy some bliss in their respective fantasies.
Clara longs to be loved and run away from the superficiality of "tai-tai friendships", and bumping into an acquaintance, Valentine Pang (Adrian Pang), a sales person in a departmental store and old school classmate, may just provide that avenue. Aaron Ho (Aaron Kao), a young man stifled in his 9-to-5 job, seeks out friends in the mall, and slowly develops the hots for his best friend's sister Hui Hui (Magdalene Tan), a goth lolita. Renu (Sonya Nair), an 8 year old girl who finds herself abandoned and unloved by her parents, seeking out a new life in the world famous Mustafa Centre, a mall that does not sleep, enjoying the material goods she could possibly never possess, and being caught in a web of intrigue between a conman, and the store's security personnel.
Gone Shopping reveals a thick tapestry based on strengths of Li Lin's imaginative mind, and engages the audiences at different levels. Like a shopping mall itself, the movie is full of differen t
components that will appeal to different demographics, but yet all coming together to make it a completely satisfying experience. Some scenes were just so cunningly full of wit, that you can't help but to crack up for its sheer brilliance and cheekiness. The actors too, from familiar TV faces past and present, flesh their roles with aplomb, and are a delight to watch. I only rue that the wonderful Adrian Pang didn't get a lot of screen time, and his moustache does make him look kinda serious, departing miles away from his funnyman persona.
What is superb too for a local film, are the cinematography and art direction. The colours are beautiful to look at, building upon those already available in the malls' surroundings, and scenes come alive with its many locations that audiences would find familiar. After all, we do visit these places from time to time for our dose of retail therapy. And for the overseas audience, you're in for a real visual treat as well, as Gone Shopping made the malls actually look sexy, and for those who have been here before, take a look if you can recall where they were. While it is obvious these places are touristy and would make Singapore Tourism Board beam with brimming pride, it doesn't, not for a minute, look like a huge "Come Visit Singapore / Come Shop in Singapore" commercial, which is great.
Retail therapy might pay off to chase those blues away, but Gone Shopping certainly is well worth the admission ticket, being able to straddle the arty film realm that most local movies seem to fall under, and having the commercial legs as well. If Singapore movies are growing from strength to strength with each output, then Gone Shopping has certainly stamped its mark for 2007. Highly recommended!
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