The Blue Mansion(2009)
- RatedNC16 /GenreComedy
The patriarch of The Blue Mansion is not alive to see the shenanigans of his malcontent offspring, who have turned his wake into a party full of guests the corporate high-flier would not have welcomed. Good news, right?
Wrong. An infinitely worse and improbable scenario has Wee Bak Chuan's (Patrick Teoh) spirit trapped in limbo. Still dressed in silk pyjamas, the recently dead 'Pineapple King' tycoon is forced to trundle along and watch his children bicker over his estate, while realising with increasing queasiness that he was neither well-respected, nor well-liked.
"This is what hell feels like," he says.
When a police inspector (Huzir Sulaiman) decides that foul play is afoot and opens an investigation, Wee's spirit also conducts a surreptitious examination into his own death, as signs start to point to a killer in the family.
Based on the above description of Glen Goei's belated return to Singapore cinema - 11 years after Forever Fever - one might think the film is a murder-mystery rooted in Greek tragedy. In some ways it is, like a satire that at times mocks its own similarity to predecessors in the genre.
Most of the time, it vacillates between being a free-spirited, barb-tongued comedy to an overwrought Peranakan tragedy, and for all its ambition and bright moments-frequently arising from Neo Swee Lin's vivacious performance as the tycoon's spinster daughter-Goei's latest film reflects its protagonist's predicament: It's neither here nor there.
That is not to say, however, that The Blue Mansion, does not manage to entertain, albeit in fits and starts, or that it isn't of high quality. In fact, the top-notch production values are a real credit to our film industry, and as an American friend of mine noted, the dialogue is even more clearly audible than in some Stateside films.
The problem lies in part in the surfeit of dialogue. While the lines are well-written, reveal much about the characters' motivations, and contain much wit, there simply are too many. Several scenes feel hemmed in by the sheer volume of dialogue; others lose momentum before the punchline can be delivered.
The cast assembled to breath life into those words, mostly plucked from the Singaporean and Malaysian stage, on a whole perform admirably. Teoh recalls James Coburn's vitriolic delivery in parts, Sulaiman shows great timing and awareness as the snooty investigator, while Neo and real-life partner Lim Kay Siu are notable as sister and brother, characters whose once-promising lives had been torn asunder by the domineering patriarch.
Perhaps the most challenging role has Adrian Pang, a stage and television star whose career was launched by Forever Fever, playing Wee's hot-headed youngest son Meng, whose marginalisation by his ruthless father makes him the most obvious murderer. One wonders if Pang felt the need to carry the comedic weight of some scenes, particularly when the comic shtick of having Wee's relations mouth the catchphrases spouted by his ghost wore thin.
Rounding out the cast are many familiar faces from the local arts scene, including Tan Kheng Hua, Pam Oei, Karen Tan, the hilarious Broadway Beng Sebastian Tan, and Emma Yong, in a deceptively tough role
In any good murder-mystery, red herrings must exist. For The Blue Mansion, the ultimate red herring is the elusive true nature of this film, something yet to be divined.
About Yong Shu Chiang
Yong Shu Chiang, otherwise known as SC, is a freelance editor and writer. He reviewed movies for Juice magazine when he was in college, and was the resident film reviewer for Today Newspaper from 2003 to 2005. He has also reviewed movies for Prime Time Morning on Channel NewsAsia.
"Just when I thought I was out... they pull me back in!" Michael Corleone, The Godfather, Part III (1990).
Check out the other articles related to The Blue Mansion:
Interview: Glen Goei on The Blue Mansion
Interview: Adrian Pang on The Blue Mansion
Interview: Tan Kheng Hua on The Blue Mansion
Interview: Glen Goei talks about his new film