Review - 'Rubbers' by Han Yew Kwang
Rubbers, with its tagline as ‘Singapore’s funniest sex comedy’ seemed somehow a very strange combination of words. A sex comedy that was very much produced, written, directed and acted locally - perhaps Singaporean society may no longer be as conservative as it once was!
The film was absolutely unapologetic and embraced its subject matter whole heartedly right from the in-your-face opening track sequence! Kudos to director and writer Han Yew Kwang for his boldness in style and commitment to his film. In fact on closer inspection, he was involved in many aspects of the film beyond writing and directing to even acting, editing and composing the soundtrack. This certainly resulted in a consistent feel, look and vision.
The film stitches together three stories - Balloons about a long suffering married couple played by Marcus Chin and Catherine Sng; Nightmare a condom caught womanizer (Alaric Tay) and his imaginary AV star (Oon Shu Ann); and The Plumber an unlucky in love single lady (Yeo Yann Yann) who resorted to rather creative means to seduce a hunky plumber named Thor (Julian Hee) - hammer and red towel included! - on Valentine's Day.
While the comedic moments did at times heavily rely on visual and implied gags to work, there was certainly a good balance between cringe worthy and heartfelt moments to engage the audience. In Balloons, the rekindling of old romantic school crush love gave the characters a back story for stronger emotional connection. Although serious issues such as prostitution was glossed over. In Nightmare, most if not all comedic moments were very much applied through atypical situations - the three attempts to get to a hospital by his car, her bike or disguised as a lion dance troupe is just one such example! The Plumber had the most zany array of situations from her very creative range of seduction techniques, a full on argument with a life sized condom packet to what must be one of the most romantic ways to change a lightbulb!
Certainly an entertaining afternoon spent in the cinema. Impressive was the fearlessness of the actors (Yeo Yann Yann, Oon Shu Ann and Alaric Tay in particular) who had to execute some of the rather intricate and carefully positioned shots. The casting was particularly well done. Not only were main characters well portrayed, supporting actors with cameo appearances all made significant contributions to the movie in their own way. Yeo Yann Yann, already a well deserved household name, certainly did not disappoint by displaying additional versatility here in a different more playful role - nevertheless she imbued her character with a 3 dimensional persona and grounding in what was otherwise a rather simple storyline. The mutual trust of both director and actor was very evident especially when executing some of the more creative moments of the script! Special mention to both Alaric Tay and Oon Shu Ann for their delightful moments. Alaric has always had a strong scene stealing ability and it was refreshing to watch him in longer scenes here rather than usual cutaways. Building on a portfolio of theatre work, Shu Ann's strong impersonation skills and performance here was near taken for granted - fearless is the word that comes to mind.
With such strong casting and visual feel, expectations were slowly raised throughout the film. Strangely however, one left the cinema not quite fully satisfied as while it was an enjoyable and fun afternoon there was a need for something more. Perhaps it comes down to the strength of the underlying stories themselves. This was certainly a weakness in the film. While individually each story was interesting, the sum of the parts did not add up. Perhaps it was because they did not contain elements that were particularly complex or new. At times there were constant reminders of scenes from other movies - condoms as balloons, showering fully clothed and even similarities to a memorable Selma Blair scene from The Sweetest Thing. This immediately invoked comparisons. Additionally there was no strong connecting thread between the stories other than the use of condoms as a theme.
In summary, while perhaps not the next award winning film, it is still a little gem that provided many laughs on a lazy afternoon.
Review by Ivan Choong
If you are keen, go behind the scenes of 'Rubbers' in our interview with Han Yew Kwang done earlier in the year here.