Review-'3 Peas in a Pod' by Michelle Chong

Warning: Major spoilers ahead pertaining to the twist of the film.

The titular “3 Peas in a Pod” are Penny, Perry and Peter; three twenty-somethings who have became close friends during their undergraduate years in an Australian college. Penny likes Peter, but thinks that Perry likes her. As the date of their graduation looms near, Peter wishes to delay their inevitable separation and invites the three to go on a road trip across Australia. There are two likely ways to make this plot original: 1) the three somehow end up in a polyamorous relationship or 2) someone is gay all along. Considering that all three main characters are Asians, it is not hard to predict which direction the film will take.

Haruki Murakami stated in an interview that his work presents women as mediums and that “the function of the medium is to make something happen through herself”. Penny, the supposed protagonist of this movie, is arguably less of a dynamic character and more of a medium for the character arcs of her male friends. As the film is chiefly told through her perspective as the witness of the increasing tension between the two men, the audience is easily misled that she is the source of the conflict between Peter and Perry. It is after the revelation that the two men were in love all along when we come to question the true nature of the conflict. More significantly, it becomes clear that the awkward gestures of affection directed towards Penny are actually meant for each other. Regardless of the genuineness of their friendship with Penny, Penny as a character is nevertheless on one level a means of an end to facilitate the relationship of the two men throughout the film.

One may perceive the “chick flick” tropes used to characterize Penny as hints that it is okay to not be emotionally invested in her own character arc. While most films take the audience’s emotional investment in their female lead for granted, this film shows a hint of self-awareness that makes the obligatory love triangle plot less frustrating. Like a typical “chick flick” heroine, Penny introduces herself through voiceover as just an ordinary girl, yet is shown to perceive a stranger alerting her to an administrative error as an attempt at flirting. Penny’s act of voluntarily doing her crush’s homework may seem like a comical portrayal of the extents of a young woman’s infatuation; but as any university freshman who have faithfully attended their mandatory Academic Integrity lectures would know, this is a form of academic misconduct known as collusion. When Penny’s snooping of the contents of Perry’s phone leads to the film’s grand revelation, we come to wonder if the lead up to this grand revelation requires a protagonist who has no qualms with snooping. 

The sense that the twist is absolutely gratuitous is alleviated through the rearrangement of previous clips into a straightforward love story between the two men. The film goes all the way to give the audience a preview of the unconventional romance that it could have been while undermining the romantic drama that it has painstakingly set up for most of the film. Through doing so rather than outrightly subverting genre conventions, the film is arguably more effective in showing how an attachment to tired tropes could dampen the emotional resonance of a love story.

While the heavy application of romantic tropes may lead viewers to be more interested in the scenic Australian landscapes than the characters, “3 Peas in a Pod” ultimately redeems itself through juxtaposing in its final act what the conventional audience wants it to be and what it could have been. The film’s hints of self-awareness makes its depiction of young adult angst more ironic and thus, more bearable. 

Review by Joseline Yu 
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