An off-kilter Singaporean romantic comedy written, directed by and starring Jason Chan, Perfect Girl taps into all the bumps and bruises experienced by people navigating love and dating in the modern world. While it feels tiresome at some points, it succeeds at giving us bits of romantic wisdom in quirky and comedic ways.
Perfect Girl begins with Stan (Jason Chan) standing alone in the middle of a large bustling crowd while he narrates his woes about singleness and loneliness. The cliché scene accompanied by the self-pitying tone of the narration is parodic in its humour. It’s clear from the outset that this film is going to toy with the overused romantic tropes. As the narration continues, it emerges that the cause of Stan’s ‘forever alone’ status is his fixation with childhood sweetheart Jenny (Khaleila Hisham), who he considers his perfect girl.
Stan and Jenny bump into each other after ten years apart, and although both are romantically interested in the other, neither is willing to make the first move for fear of rejection or coming across too keen. The film depicts the pair’s subsequent relationship development by scenes supplemented throughout by narration from both Stan and Jenny, allowing us to listen to their innermost thoughts. These are often at odds with the situation at hand, which is the cause of much laughter.
“The film was originally a ten part web-series”
There are very few characters other than the main couple, and while this means we are much more intimate with them, it is also easy to become weary of them. This might also be why a film that lasts just over an hour feels much longer. Another reason we might find it difficult to stay engaged is that the film was originally a ten part web-series, the episodes of which were later strung together.
Jason Chan’s writing is certainly unique. The dialogue of his characters is eloquent and surprisingly rich, with everything from Haruki Murakami references to discussions of determinism sprinkled throughout. While this would normally bring a danger of seeming pretentious, the juxtaposition of high-brow ideas with more familiar and down to earth situations keeps this risk at bay. For instance, Stan begins to ponder the question of free will only when Jenny walks away from him. The resultant bathos is funny but also relatable; it’s pretty of pathetic that he engage with philosophical ideas purely because of his own failed romantic endeavours, but we’re all guilty of dramatizing our personal affairs.
“Jason Chan thus gives his film a carefree and almost whimsical quality”
The use of visuals is also a point of interest. The characters’ narration is sometimes illustrated by relevant images or clips. For instance, when Jenny compares the feeling of truly and instantly connecting with someone to the sublimity of standing atop the Austrian Alps, these mountains appear on screen. Jason Chan thus gives his film a carefree and almost whimsical quality: it becomes a collage of vaguely connected ideas and images intended to stimulate our thoughts, rather than a conventional instance of web-series or cinema.
As the film progresses, it picks up on features of our world that are something of a double-edged sword when it comes to relationships, including online dating and messaging. But the central dilemma faced by its characters is a much more timeless one. The take-home message is also equally timeless; having a fulfilling relationship requires being painfully vulnerable, but the risk is more than worth it.
Image courtesy of Bananamana Films.
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