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No Comedy in Milly & Mamet the Movie

Milly & Mamet offers Instagram feeds. The way Ernest Prakasa, the director, chose the properties and its color, all black in the office, and image of food menu, all of them are common now. The references are Instagrasmism and K-pop video. Is this an attempt by Ernest, who wants to translate visual phenomena on social media? Did he just only celebrate Instagram’s aesthetic?

If Ernest wants to make a comedy in Milly & Mamet, is he success? Understanding comedy is like understanding the way Jack in the box works (look at Alenka Zupančič’s explanation about desire and comical subject). There is something within. When the box is opened, Jack will appear and surprise us. Comedy has a potential to surprise and disturb the established order. Laugh is the way for us as a subject to understand how collectivity works (McGowan, 2016: 212 – 216). As for that, we never laugh alone. Do Milly & Mamet, a film that consists stand-up comedians, achieve such a thing? Is ‘comedy’ just ending up as mere a jargon?

Instagram Design

James the investor’s office room is all black. Triangular is the texture of his wall. A painting hangs in the waiting room, becomes something that hunts Mamet when he should face Isyana Sarasvati the secretary. Mamet’s body, the main character, already accustomed with atmosphere in his own house with a red sofa and mint color wall. Meanwhile Mr. Sony, his father-in-law, has a colorful-like-candies factory. Its sewing machine can be tamed by the color the fabric and yarn. Complementary, there is Yongky, played by Ernest himself. His vivid mood read through aphorisms written in the hats he wears.

Looking at the design, it reminds us to K-pop video. Somehow, Instagram-image appears. For the example, when Somat uses a stair, a camera shots from above, showing only his head while two-thirds of the composition is a salted egg green floor. This minimalism image also appears when Mamet is sitting in font of James and his father painting. And when camera shots the food, it reminds us to hashtag ‘food’ in Instagram. There is interesting scene as well when Lela and IIN, the secretary and admin, are busy in their own desk and behind them are the workers in the sewing room.

Ernest wants emphasizes atmospheric image in his film. This is Instagram character when the aesthetic image featured on the atmospheric and the feeling. In the “Notes on Instagrammism”, Lev Manovich states that Instagrammism is a image that has poetic design (taken from poetic realism minus its narrative aspect). In the Instagram image, history is not the main point. It is only giving a stimulus. We can call it good-looking images. Manovich also states that the reference can be seen as well in the contemporary K-pop video. Instagrammism could affect commercial photos as well. However, how much Instagrammism affects Milly & Mamet the Movie, which turns out to be very narrative and highlights dialogue between characters?

Figure 1. The atmosphere for every room in Milly & Mamet. Above, Milly-Mamet house with a modern minimalist design, similar to the present town house. Middle. When Lela and IIN were busy with the sweet factory situation. Below. James’s office was tense. Courtesy PT Kharisma Starvision Plus and Miles Films.

If comparing this film with What’s up With Love? 1 & 2, Ernest’s work is alienating the characters from their city. In What’s up With Love? 2 (Riri Riza, 2016), the film allows spectator to see Yogyakarta’s characteristic from the eye of a tourist. In What’s up With Love? 1 (Rudy Soedjarwo, 2002), Jakarta presents through Kwitang and traffic jam. Meanwhile, in Milly & Mamet, there are a lot of shots in the room, a place where Ernest could explore the good-looking and atmospheric image. Even for Chef Mamet restaurant, Ernest makes this place far from Jakarta as urban city. Ernest is intentionally avoiding the dynamic of this fast city because he is still clinging on the style Instagrammism, when body is able to dominate the space. This is mentioned by Manovich (2016), “New York is not able to be the top city for Instagram because it is too fast and too crowded”.

Nevertheless, there is one moment when Ernest gives in to the history. This is the moment when the spectator aware that they just seeing a typically “Indonesia” in the big city. There were a portrait of happy family, carved wooden chairs, and brown soil filter in Mr. Sony’s house as the reminder of the old-money-people house in the big cities. The memory is too strong, “eating” other image that is intended to comfort the spectator.

Once Again, Instagram

Milly & Mamet takes up the consumption of Instagram users. Milly’s character as the representative. After becoming a full time mother, Milly always updates news to the relation between Alex-Mamet, and uploads the togetherness of her family through Instagram. When Milly-Mamet quarreled, they looked back at the video to lower their ego.

Click… click… click… and post…

Lets compare with Aruna dan Lidahnya (Edwin, 2018). In this film, eating is considered as a way to seek an enjoyment. Edwin’s camera seemed respecting the food served in front of him. He wants to translate the delicacy of food into image, like a reviewer who wants to share his/her happiness tasting food beyond delicious. While in Milly & Mamet, food is seen as an advertisement. Food is arranged as attractive as possible, served in a hurry then click ‘record’. Togetherness in eating food is lost even though the film is intended for families.

Read Aruna dan Lidahnya in Jurnal Footage

In the end, Ernest is only celebrating the consumption in Instagram. Matter of user’s desire that triggered by the Instagram image is never be questioned. As for example, @ mamah_itje as the selebgram becomes Ernest way to support famous in 60 seconds that was accommodate by Instagram.

Comedy as the Results of Communication Failure

Communication is always a failure. That’s why we keep on talking, explaining something. Milly & Mamet characters are demanded to always talking. Mamet follows his passion; Milly is bored because of full-time mother status; to @ mamah_itje that is always talking when she eats for review. Silence moment, understanding the problem, only appears when Milly-Mamet see Instagram video.

Just like other comedy film, the marginal character becomes the key to lift the humor. It can be seen through Sari the assistant, and Somat the office boy who becomes burlesque for IIN and Lela. But Ernest seems insensitive. When the humor is lifted it becomes medium to teach Sari and Somat. These two characters were constantly told to follow Milly-Mamet as the authority in the film.

When laughter is targeted at the authority, it is able to raise the identity of the marginal character in the story. If comedy could make us laugh at the upper class and lower class, then it can make us free. Instead of inviting the spectator to laugh at the hierarchy created in Milly & Mamet’s universe, Ernest is only able to laugh at the naivety and innocence of the marginal characters.

Read Suzanna: Breathing in Mud

The use of body to lift comical character is common in Indonesian comedy films. In Benyamin Tukang Ngibul (Nawi Ismail, 1975), Benyamin’s body became a thing that make the spectator burst to laugh. It can be seen in the scene when Beni is fishing a boot that is bringing him to bad luck in a row. His body speaks. Because of the insistence from within Beni’s body, the laughter can be dynamic. The film itself is finally able to laugh at the upper class and lower class simultaneously.

Another example comes from Suzanna: Breathing in Mud (Rocky Soraya and Anggy Umbara, 2018). When Opie Kumis chokes on, it could bring our everyday experience and bring us burst to laugh. Opie’s body could play the choking moment. Although Ernest talks about ‘choking’ as well, he does not believe in his character’s body. It can be seen through the scene when Mamet and Sari talk about choking, make the experience as something strange that is always to be talked on and on.

Robby             : Mau Mojito? (Wants Mojito)
Sari                 : Saya mo minum… kok malah mohito… (I want to drink… no mojito)

IIN                   : Eh lohor.. lohor.. (adzan dzuhur) jam berapa ya? (What time for Islamic prayer is?)
Yongki (Ernest): Mana gua tahu! Gua Konghucu! (I don’t know! I am Konghucu).

Milly & Mamet’s humor turns out only to perpetuate the gap of social classes. Ernest uses stereotypes of certain groups to build continuity of the story. Ernest did not question it, but instead let racial and class matters as it is. Supported by the good-looking images, the spectator will be comforted. Stereotypes of urban middle class that have more access, the lower class that should be educated, and conglomerates with their money laundry cases, are reasonable and comfortable to watch.

Regarding the use of stand-up comedians, it emphasizes the failure of communication. Their habit that always explaining jokes alone in front of the stage is taken by Ernest to support his filmic universe. So if the jokes seem dry, it could be because they explain too much. And it could be also because Ernest did not have starting point to unite jokes from every stand-up comedian in his film.

Reference

Zupančič, Alenka. 2008. The Odd One In: On Comedy. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Online Reference

McGowan, Todd. 2016. “The Barriers to a Critical Comedy”. Source: http://www.academia.edu/33209536/The_Barriers_to_a_Critical_Comedy accessed 10 April 2018.

Manovich, Lev. 2016. “Notes on Instagrammism”. Source: http://manovich.net/index.php/projects/notes-on-instagrammism-and-mechanisms-of-contemporary-cultural-identity accessed 25 Desember 2018.

Milly & Mamet (2018)

Finally Milly and Mamet can be separated from What’s up With Love? Universe. Milly is busy taking care her child, but she feel bored and only use her me-time to see Instagram feeds. Mamet wants to be a chef, chasing his passion. The main problem of the family came from urban middle class is about a wife who should choose to be a full-time mom or working mom. Finally there is win-win solution. Mamet and Milly works together, develops Milly’s Meal. Mamet becomes the chef, and Milly becomes communication manager.

Director: Ernest Prakasa | Actors: Sissy Priscillia, Dennis Adhiswara, Julie Estelle, Yoshi Sudarso, Dian Sastrowardoyo, Adinia Wirasti, Titi Kamal, Ardit Erwandha, Arafah Rianti, Roy Marten, Ernest Prakasa, Isyana Sarasvati, Eva Celia, Melly Goeslaw, Aci Resti, Dinda Kanyadewi, Bintang Emon, Tike Priatnakusumah, Muhadkly Acho, Surya Saputra, Gebi Ramadhan. |Durasi : 101 minutes| Genre  : Comedy Drama | Production House: PT Kharisma Starvision Plus, Miles Films

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