A still from 'Imperfect: Career, Love & Scale'. (StarvisionPlus' YouTube/File )
Imperfect: Karier, Cinta & Timbangan (Imperfect: Career, Love & Scale), directed by Ernest Prakasa, is an important film that deals with insecurity and women in the workplace. Based on the novel Imperfect: A Journey to Self-Acceptance by Ernest’s wife Meira Anastasia, who played a major role in the scriptwriting process, the film stays true to its source material.
The main protagonist is Rara (Jessica Mila), a messy, overweight research associate at a company. With a former model as a mother (Karina Suwandi) and a skinny and beautiful sister (Yasmin Napper), Rara lives in a world in which appearance, for better or worse, matters. Nevertheless, with a kind-hearted, good-looking boyfriend in Dika (Reza Rahadian), a close relationship with Dika’s loving mother (Dewi Irawan) and best friend Fey (Shareefa Daanish), whom she can count on when dealing with mean girls at the office, Rara’s world is orderly.
Everything starts to change when Rara’s marketing manager resigns. She is determined to be promoted to the position but is judged based on her appearance, with the office wanting its marketing manager to be skinny, neat and beautiful – the company’s definition of presentable. Rara decides to challenge her boss (Dion Wiyoko), saying that if she can change her appearance and lose weight, she should be given the job.
And so Rara’s world changes. The ultimate question for her is: Can she get the promotion she wants?
The plot was meticulously designed by Ernest and Meira. Everything is predictable, yes, but everything works really well together.
What’s so good about the film is the fact that the screenwriting couple that created it tried to highlight that everybody has their own insecurities. Rara’s biggest insecurity – her appearance – is obvious, but the movie also highlights others’ internal struggles, such as Dika’s insecurity over his finances. Even Rara’s boss, someone with great power, has his own insecurity. In a scene taking place in a boarding house, four women, portrayed by four amazing comedians, share their many insecurities over hair, teeth and even their birthmarks.
What’s great about this movie is how these comedians are not just there to make you laugh. They have more meaning and relevance to the story than one might expect from an Ernest flick. Ernest typically uses comedians to fill the third act and sustain the comedy, even if his characters are not relevant to the story.
Compared to Ernest's previous works in Susah Sinyal (Hard to Get Cell Phone Service) and Milly & Mamet, Imperfect is more female-driven and it treats its female characters with more dignity. Even though Susah Sinyal has two main female characters, neither women highlight women’s issues and they are characterized as somewhat masculine and cold. There are many things that could have been said in Susah Sinyal about women in the workplace, but the film fails to do that. Milly & Mamet, which tells the story of a married couple named Milly and Mamet, gives the male character Mamet more weight in the plot, so much so that one might question why the film was titled Milly & Mamet and not the other way around.
Imperfect is much more sensitive in portraying women. The jokes in Imperfect do not place women as mere objects. Both Fey and Neti (Kiky Saputri), one of the inhabitants of the boarding house, show how women can talk about sex in the context of them being the subject rather than the object.
One of their scenes together is probably an ode to Norah Ephron’s iconic diner scene in When Harry Met Sally (1989). It is both funny and empowering because it sends a powerful message regarding how women view sex. While Ernest approached the topic in his first film Ngenest (2015) through a bed masturbation scene, Meira cleverly put the topic as a whole in perspective in Imperfect.
Imperfect is not a movie to be missed. It captures body shaming and insecurities in such a universal lens and proves how urgent and organic this issue is, regardless of the character's social status and gender. In a patriarchal society, women are expected not only to be qualified but to be presentable – especially in the workplace. Had Rara been a man, her problems might have been different. She might not have needed to worry about her appearance as much if her brain alone was enough to earn her the promotion.
Discrimination and double standards against women in any setting should be discussed and seriously addressed. Through laughter and a feel-good story, Ernest and Meira make us contemplate what it means to be imperfect and to be women living in a patriarchal society.
But this film is not just for women. Men can also relate to the gravity of the premise. To make the soul of the movie more relatable, Ernest and Meira widened the definition of insecurities, applying it to the male characters – Dion Wiyoko's character is constantly doubted by his mother who happens to own the company and Reza Rahadian is insecure about dating someone whose physical appearance changes.
The film reminds us that, at the end of the day, insecurities do not belong to a certain gender. We should celebrate our imperfections and be grateful for what we have instead of being insecure over what we don’t. For that matter, Imperfect deserves to be celebrated. (dev/kes)
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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.