Eight years ago, the first “Arisan!” movie came out to a very good reception. I would’ve agreed that it was at least far better than its local peers but, well, if I have my say and should I chose one word to describe that movie, it would be, um, “tedious.” The movie, however, gives a closure, an ending that was more or less, satisfying and personally, establishes Rachel Maryam and Cut Mini as two of my favorite ladies of Indonesian cinema. And that opinion of mine at least, doesn’t seem to change.
Fast forward to now, and they’re back. In the same spirit that I couldn’t help but reminded to Linklater’s awesome duo “Before Sunrise” (1995) and “Before Sunset” (2004), I was actually looking forward to how the eight years span would do to the characters and their respective writings. Short word version: it’s a worthy sequel, and I love how the cast and crew of this movie taking a very good care of it even if the word “tedious” still came to haunt me from time to time during the length I’m watching this movie.
All of the major characters from the first “Arisan!” movie is back and with eight years between them, it is to be expected that these characters would have a proper treatment growing up physically, but more importantly, emotionally. Having said that, I felt that the only character that received this full and proper treatment is Meimei (Cut Mini), a childless widow. We saw her for the first time apparently on an extended holiday in a some island resort. Her reasons of leaving weren’t revealed (yet) even to her best friends in Jakarta which made up the rest of the major characters. Sadly, the rest of the major characters weren’t receiving the same treatment as Meimei does. Sure, each of them has some life changing events to cope with. Death in the family, an end to a relationship, new relationships, and a single parent to a child, etc. But for me, these events were just events. I am absolutely adamant, uninterested to whatever happened to them and how it affected them because the way I see it, they were more or less remains the same. Older, but may not be wiser than the first movie.
It wasn’t long before “Arisan! 2” establishing itself firmly centered around Meimei. She is the one who has a significant emotional change, becoming more interesting to which the movie had treated her as its main course. Not that there’s anything horribly wrong with the preludes. They were fun, the preludes that preceded the main course. Sarah Sechan stealing every scene she was in as the skin beautician (doctor?) with a sharp tongue and witty, if not harsh, remarks. She’s the source of all chuckles I have to this entire movie. They were also offering a glimpse of Jakarta that I (and the other 99%) have never ever experienced, and most likely never will. But sometimes, the jokes were too uncomfortable and I felt that Nia Dinata (the director) played her cards on LGBT issue a bit more excessively. The audiences I’m with seems to enjoying it though, but I was a bit uncomfortable with some of the scenes because I felt that they hit a little too close to being derogatory. But, it was a fun prelude to Meimei’s story arc, and with some interesting subplot (hint: Sarah Sechan’s character’s subplot) even if it runs a tad too long.
I think the problem of Indonesian films were that they tend to be preachy and telling the story rather than showing them. “Arisan! 2” is probably the best Indonesian film I’ve seen for the last couple of years. An ambitious one, if you will, but not without its merits. However, near the end, during the closure of Meimei’s story arc, I felt that the movie was trying, I hope unintentionally, to be preachy. At one scene, I felt that Meimei had read a cue card to tell the audiences, verbally about the values that the movie tried to convey. I can’t say that it is absolutely a turn off for every single one watching, but it was a turn off for me for I felt like I was being lectured instead of listening to someone who was in character and genuinely believed in what she said. Molly, the local bartender with a thick Bali accent was more sincere in her dialogs than any of Meimei’s monologue. It was preachy and breaking my preference in a movie that showing the story rather than telling them. Nia Dinata also employs many close ups to capture small changes and simple gestures. I give it an A for an effort but I think, even if she is way ahead from most other Indonesian directors, she needs to downplay it next time. Some of the close ups gives me a shiver because they lingered a half second longer than I’d love it to. But who am I to judge? Well I’m just a dude with an opinion. And time to write it down.
All in all, it is a fun and worthy sequel and it was lovely to watch the care being given to the characters that were first made appearance eight years ago. However, the word “tedious” again, creeping on me from time to time and I was a bit disappointed because aside from Cut Mini’s character, the rest of the cast seems to had not warranted a more interesting arc and serving more like a prelude, a momentary respite to the real meat of this movie which is all Meimei’s.
One last note, I was disappointed with Rachel Maryam’s character, the free spirited Lita. Eight years ago, it was cute. Now, with her age showing, it wasn’t. Like most of the characters, she’s hardly changed from the last movie but I think she’s the one who should be received a major change. One does not simply goes from being a college student to a career woman without at least a shook up of her fundamentals. Maybe I’m just nitpicking, maybe some people does not change, but I had a strong opinion on it, and it’s doubt.