Far East Film Festival 20

Udine Italy April 20th/ April 28th 2018
The Film Festival For Popular Asian Cinema
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
Monday, April 24, time 9.00 AM

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My Stupid Boss

My Stupid Boss marks the return to the Udine Far East Film festival of Upi (Avianto), the best-loved and most popular director and screenwriter in commercial Indonesian cinema. It is also her biggest box-office grosser in her homeland. Indeed, the film drew in over three million spectators in Indonesia, one of the best results of not only last year, but of the past few years. Results that far exceeded the most ambitious estimates. And thanks to the excellent choice of setting, casting and writing, the film has also garnered attention in nearby Malaysia.

Because, in fact, My Stupid Boss is set entirely in Kuala Lumpur, where the young married Indonesian couple Diana and Dika move for his work. But the “stupid boss” of the title is Diana’s; she decides to look for work and finds a place in an ironworks, where the boss is an ex-college buddy of Dika’s. Throughout the film, he is simply referred to as Bossman (an entertaining example of Indonesian English). Bossman is a rather singular and troubled manager: irascible and unpredictable, he comes out with the most outrageous requests and puts to the test the mental well-being of his staff with his irrationality and incoherence. Diana tries to take it in her stride, but soon she is tested to the limits (from work calls in the middle of the night, to expeditions into the forest etc.). So she decides to counterattack and play Bossman at his own game.

Written with great verve and focused on an absurd and irredeemable character, My Stupid Boss is a comedy which skillfully plays on the intercultural setting. Many of the jokes and comical situations in the film are due to the linguistic misunderstandings between Indonesians and Malaysians. Although the two languages are similar and, generally speaking, inter-comprehensible, the fact that Bossman insists on speaking Indonesian, at times using colloquial expressions, creates misunderstandings amongst his Malaysian staff. And Upi plays with knowing irony on the stereotypes of the Malaysian context: on the one hand, Diana’s neighbours, led by Siti, housewives with the sole of aim of spreading gossip; on the other hand, by the gallery of colleagues in Diana’s office. There is Norashikin, the young woman dressed in tudung (the Malaysian version of the Islamic veil), the middle-aged Chinese man, the devoted Islamist and the playboy who tries to court the veiled colleague. The latter is played to striking effect by Bront Palarae, one of the most famous faces on the Kuala Lumpur film scene.

The script aside, it is certain that the casting choices have added to the film’s appeal. And Bunga Citra Lestari plays Diana to delightful perfection, especially in her journey from stoical astonishment to vindictive fury, but the true ace up the sleeve in My Stupid Boss is the priceless comic worth of Reza Rahadian. One of the most beloved actors in Indonesia (especially amongst the female viewers), the ex-model is almost unrecognizable (with a belly, an embarrassing comb-over, awkward and irritating) and he provides a memorable performance. It would be hard going to forget this character who, in his own way, is irresistible – an Italian audience might recognize traces of the tragicomic clerk Fantozzi.

Moving on to Upi: she deals in a dynamic way with the spaces in what is a comedy mainly shot in studios, giving in to the urge to let the narrative flow into a Bollywood musical moment. And it is easy to predict that a box-office triumph will lead Upi to bring us more episodes of the madness of her unstoppable Bossman…

Paolo Bertolin
Film director: 
Upi
Year: 
2016
Running time: 
108

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