Director: Chai Yeewei
Writers: Chai Yeewei & Violet Lai
Cast: Daren Tan, Julie Tan, Seah Jiaqing, Kenny Khoo, Jayley Woo, Hayley Woo, Kelvin Mun, Sherly Devonne Ng
Running Length: 116 minutes
Synopsis: Set in Singapore in the early 90s, That Girl in Pinafore recounts the lives and love of a group of friends whose love of xinyao brings them together.
Review: At first glance, That Girl in Pinafore is immediately reminiscent of the 2011 Taiwan box office smash You Are the Apple of My Eye, and there definitely are similarities between the two films. Both tap into the power of nostalgia, and the story structure and character mix is almost identical. That Girl in Pinafore has one very big upside going for it (in Singapore at least), however – it’s a local movie, and it would be remiss to ignore the compounding effect of resonance on top of nostalgia. There would be no doubt that the movie will generate strong word of mouth, and barring the cinema operators’ whims and fancies, should see a relatively good run at the box office.
It’s also interesting to observe the small touches that director Yee Wei had put into the film – to enhance the veracity of the period setting, he managed to obtain relics from the bygone era, including pagers, old-school telephones, cassette tapes, and even a cheesy abdominal exercise machine.
However, strip away the nostalgia factor and the film does lose some of its sheen. The overt melodrama, especially in the final reel, wasn’t entirely necessary, and the young actors weren’t able to portray the weightier moments of the film well. The song performances were akin to Glee – although some of the new arrangements were interesting, the vocal quality (except perhaps Daren Tan, who is after all an ex-Project Superstar winner) of the cast was extremely uneven.
It was great to see part of my growing up days being re-enacted on the big screen, and that alone is worth the price of entry, but for audience members who are not acquainted with the xinyao movement or the early 90s would likely find the experience a more subdued one. There is no denying, however, that this is a heartfelt labour of love, and should receive kudos for bucking the norms of what defines a local movie. It’s also pleasant to note that despite having a slew of sponsors backing the movie, there were no overt product placements or awkward commercial messages.
Rating: * * * (out of four stars)