Come Join the Tiong Bahru Social Club, You’ll Be Happy…

30 Sep

Tiong Bahru Social Club (2020) - IMDbBy Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Regal L.A. LIVE:
A Barco Innovation Center

Played Sep 25 6:00 pm

Please check this film’s Facebook page for future screenings.

From Fantasia 2021 to the Los Angeles Pacific Asian Film Festival, I’m sure there’ll be more stops Bee Thiam Tan Tiong Bahru Social Clubwill make a stop at as it tours the film festival circuit and recruits. At a glance, Ah Bee (Thomas Pang) joined a cult. In reality, he joined a strata, where the complex and the people who lives there look like they are rejects from THX-1138.

The concept is far from it. This film’s quirky and pastel coloured 50s sci-fi vibe permeates through half of this comedy of errors. It’s set in a not so far-off future in Singapore, where closed communities are managed by artificial intelligences and data analysts who think happiness can be easily made. But when Bee gets promoted to manage the place, he gets in over his head. Life is not as pleasing or easy.

This guy’s mother, excellently played by Goh Guat Kian, thinks otherwise. She’s the true highlight in this film as it’s her wisdom and experience which expresses a lot more facts than a computer can. She lives in the real world, away from these communal centers, and has her own life to live. Her beliefs are in contrast to what the government thinks.

Tan’s satire hits all the marks when it comes to examining most people’s reliance on others to get an idea of what defines happiness. Had this movie been titled “Get Happy,” it’d reveal too much. The pastel coloured 70s world of the Partridge Family is more blue and pink in this version, as I believe it symbolizes the feelings that are being hidden. The colours used in this film focuses on blue, for spiritual balance, and pink for love. When paired, it tries to awaken that repressed side of Bee. 

He’s paired with Geok (Jo Tan) to whom he’s unsure he has feelings for, and a cat. By the second act, the life he has with her, and this community, is often challenged. It’s not until he realizes he can be happy on his own that he can be all he can be. Eventually, he’ll have to decide if he should leave this compound. As for what’s next, this work nicely shows Bee doesn’t have to follow that herd mentality, and true happiness is just around the corner.

4 Stars out of 5

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