A still from 'Antologi Rasa'. (Soraya Intercine Film/File)
Released on Valentine's Day and adapted from a national best-selling book written by Ika Natassa, you'd think that Indonesian moviegoers would be drawn to the cinema to witness an emotional romantic story. Yet, Antologi Rasa (2019) seemed to fail to meet the expectations of Ika Natassa's readers, such as myself.
The story centers on Keara (Carissa Perusset), your typical beautiful successful independent urban woman whose main problem is, wait for it, love. Keara desperately falls in love with her best friend who is also her fellow colleague, Rully (Refal Hady), who has a crush on Denise, who's already married. What Keara doesn't know is the fact that her other best friend, Harris (Herjunot Ali), also secretly loves her. So now we have four successful good looking actors whose main conflict is nothing, but love.
Ika Natassa's book was adapted courageously by the studio, who claimed that they took years to adapt the book and to find the perfect cast. There is little new about the cast, though, as the lead actors are familiar faces of the industry. They did find a young actress, though: Carissa Perusset, claimed by Ika Natassa herself to be "the only actor who could portray Keara".
But is she?
Unlike Alfonso Cuaron's discovery of Yalitza Aparicio for Roma, Carisa Perusset, in my humble opinion, still needs additional acting lessons. Keara in the book is described as a woman who's not afraid to laugh hard like Julia Roberts, which I didn't see in the film. Junot is essentially Harris, even without acting and don't even start with Refal Hady. In both Galih & Ratna and Susah Sinyal, he was cast as a good boy character. So I wonder, why did the film take two years to be adapted from the book?
The screenplay did not do justice to the source material, as screenwriter Donny Dirgantoro decided that it would be interesting to use voice-over in the film, thus the audience is able to hear the characters' thoughts throughout the film. The book becomes interesting because Ika manages to transform her voice into her character's voice, as readers can easily feel the characters' feelings. The film decided to use the same trick, but this only highlights the lack of performance shown by the actors, a far cry from the previous adaptation of Ika Natassa's book Critical Eleven (2017).
If you think that the premise of Antologi Rasa would be relatable, think again. The only relatable part of the story might be "the secretly having a crush on your best friend" part. But aside from that, nothing in the story is relatable. Unlike Teman Tapi Menikah (2018), where the main character Ditto has two major problems that we can all relate to; that he secretly loves his best friend and that he wants to prove he's economically capable and responsible husband material. None of the characters in Antologi Rasa have these dimensions. When they don't showcase outstanding acting performances and when their characters become exclusive, it sets a distance with the audience. The only reason I didn't walk out of the theater was only because I was looking forward to seeing how Donny finishes the story.
What about the female-centric parts? Aren’t they good? Isn't the film going to empower women? Maybe because the screenwriter and the directors are male, they didn't necessarily interpret the voice of women as subtlety as possible. Keara does not embody a 20 something women dealing with what most women deal with in the workplace, like not being taken seriously when she offers her opinions (the screenwriters and the directors could have shown this, but they just chose not to). Keara didn't even want to confess her feelings toward Rully because she conservatively believed that a girl should wait.
For a film bearing the title of "feelings", I don't see many of that shown, making Antologi Rasa just another crowd-pleasing film. If you've read the book, you might feel entertained. If you're simply curious, watch and figure it out for yourself, as you might disagree with me. But if you seek to relate to the story, Antologi Rasa is not for you — unless you are one of the successful beautiful people whose major problem is nothing, but love. (asw)
Reza Mardian is a film enthusiast and a big fan of Disney, Pixar, Studio Ghibli films, as well as all films in the running for an Oscar or Festival Film Indonesia award. He has a passion for writing about the politics of film festivals and the great movies that have touched his imagination. Catch him talking about movies on Instagram @mardian.reza.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.