By Adelyn Tan (16A01E)
Produced by Cathay in commemoration of its 80th anniversary, Our Sister Mambo is the newest Singaporean romantic comedy to hit theatres this week. Inspired by iconic Cathay classic Our Sister Hedy, it illustrates the lives of the Wong household and the hijinks they get up to on our sunny island. The life of Mrs Wong (Audrey Luo) revolves around watching Korean dramas with her movie buff husband (Moses Lim), praying for her daughters to get married, and being constantly exasperated by those selfsame daughters.
Eldest daughter Grace (Ethel Yap) has a Mainland-born boyfriend who happens to be a divorcee with a young daughter; titular character Mambo (Michelle Chong) quits her successful job in a law firm to apprentice herself to celebrity chef Willin Low; sultry third sister Rose (Oon Shu An) goes through boyfriends like Hogwarts goes through DADA professors, and June (Joey Leong) is your average teenager who declares she can wake up on time for an important meeting and proceeds to oversleep the next morning. They each face their own trials and tribulations, and the happy ending is ultimately only achieved through understanding, patience and great love.
Funny and relatable, the characters sketched in Our Sister Mambo are all-too-familiar for a Singaporean audience. The plot is relatively easy to follow, though slightly disjointed and lacking focus – this stems from a commendable effort to give each of the six Wong family members equal screen time and a significant character arc. The stellar lineup is significant in bringing the movie to greater heights – Audrey Luo has impeccable comedic timing; Michelle Chong shines in her lead role; Ethel proves her mettle in her onscreen debut; Shu An turns Rose’s man-eater stereotype on its head. Even supporting characters such as aspiring star Siti (Siti Khalijah) and June’s boyfriend (Ebi Shankara) bring to the table brilliant performances and three-dimensional storylines. Despite the rapid pacing, the characters work with and around each other seamlessly to create a splendid story with a satisfying conclusion, leaving one with a fuzzy, warm, happy ending that’s classic but not cliched.
More than anything, the movie pays tribute to the golden years of the fifties and sixties, where Singapore was moving away from the post-war period into a time where we were known as the financial hub of Southeast Asia, marking the beginning of the rise of the metropolis it is today. In an age defined by impermanence, rapid development and cutting-edge technology, Our Sister Mambo gives us insight on how it’s actually possible to preserve the past without compromising on future progress, and indeed why we ought to keep our history alive. In this pivotal SG50 year, Our Sister Mambo is a timely reminder for us to reflect upon Singapore’s history beyond the pages of school textbooks and newspaper archives. Integral to the plot are details about how the entertainment industry has evolved over the course of fifty years, how our country has changed beyond measure and how despite all of that, familial and romantic love transcends time and distance. Through the course of the movie, Mrs Wong learns to loosen her apron strings a little and accept her daughters for who they are and who they love. The lesson she takes away is one the audience comes to understand as well: that above all, what’s most important is to love and be loved with no qualms.
If you’re looking for a feel-good piece of family entertainment this week complete with laugh-out-loud humour, Our Sister Mambo is the way to go. Just don’t be surprised if you leave the theatre wanting to ply your grandparents with questions about their childhood and fighting the overwhelming urge to break out in a spirited rendition of Grace Chang’s 说不出的快活.
JA JAM BO!
Our Sister Mambo has a runtime of 93 minutes and is currently being screened at all Cathay cinemas islandwide.
One thought on “Sweet. Spicy. Tangy. Our Sister Mambo.”
Our Sister Mambo, is absolutely and undefiantly the must-watch heart-warming, feel-good and make-your-day-better type family/romantic comedy movie of the year. (The script) Written in a local culture context, the movie is full of characters in which all of us can relate to dearly, one way or another, in our everyday lives. Although it is Cathay Organization’s 80th Anniversary film, its timely release complements well with the celebration mood of Singapore’s 50th Independence Day. It is surely “the Singapore movie to watch” of the season with your love ones, family and friends.
Strangely, unlike the movie title suggests, the storyline is not built primarily on the character, Mambo (played by Michelle Chong). But, Michelle’s overwhelming star power delightfully satisfies the most demanding audience’s appetite with another of her outstanding performances in the movie. And, honestly, how could one not love to have a sister like, Mambo !! This movie is clearly one monumental evidence that Michelle’s gifts in acting have already crafted her into league of her own as an actor (no wonder she keeps saying that she prefers working behind the scenes. “There is nothing left in acting for you to challenge izzit ??”). In my opinion, she is unquestionably adept to play any character in any movie genre she chooses to, effortlessly. Because when one casts Michelle Chong in a movie, one can be at least 200% sure that she is at least 300% engaged in the role, from beginning to the end, spiritually and professionally.
The movie would be lack-lustre however, without other judiciously selected cast members. Worth an honorable mention would be none other than the versatile, Audrey Luo. Even though Audrey’s age may be a little far-fetched for her role as mom, she did nothing less than outstanding work in playing the character. Audrey was so darn good in the movie that one could easily be misled to feeling dazed and confused when seeing her “play” her real self in real life. Apart from being totally successful in playing a mother whom one loves to hate but yet adores with a passion, Audrey really is, one hell of an actor who is made to grace the performing stage.
The movie would not have been more complete without Moses Lim, not to mention that its been a long while since we all saw Moses in action. He plays a father of four daughters and whose four decade long career is in the wane yet never lose himself in despair. Ultimately, it is for the love of cinema and having a wonderful family that Moses could finally and proudly pronounce: I lived, I loved, I Mattered.
One of the climatic scenes of the movie has got to be the unexpected appearance of Grace Chang (Gelan), presenting a hearty congratulatory message to Cathay Organization for its 80th Anniversary. Grace Chang, now in her 80s, was one of the original movie Queens of the 1950s-60s era, whose credits included The Wild Wild Rose (in which she performed the golden mandarin oldie, Carmen), Mambo Girl and Air Hostess (filmed partly in pre-independent Singapore). But, you won’t see Grace doing her captivating cha-cha dance. Instead, you shall have our very own, Michelle Chong, together with the entire cast, dancing to Ja-Jambo for you. How about that !
So, here you have, Our Sister Mambo. Grab tickets today … sit back … enjoy !! : )
* I am an independent movie reviewer with no association with the production or any of the participating members of Our Sister Mambo.