As a romantic comedy, this one barely tickles the heart, but as a two-hour-plus cinema commercial for Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTS), it is as commendable as any Coca Cola ad. BTS: Bangkok Traffic (Love) Story (Rot Faifa Maha Na Ther) will definitely seduce many more women to taking the already crowded Sky Train, if not to go to work, then definitely to go meet the guy of their dreams.
It’s no coincidence that the movie is released during the BTS’s 10th year of operation. It is not unreasonable then to suspect that the whole film is a BTS marketing project, which, if true, is a roaring success for Bangkok’s first mass transit. According to the Bangkok Post, the movie enjoys the distinction of being 2009’s biggest opening Thai film, taking up a not unimpressive 14 million baht on the day it was released, and more than 50 million after the first weekend.
The draw to me is mind-boggling because the movie is as bland as khao tom without the accompanying dishes. Nothing between the two leads is terribly funny to watch nor romantic enough to coo about. Newly-anointed it-girl Cris Horwang plays an incompetent Thai-Chinese salesgirl of solar panels, whose mundane commute to work is suddenly given an amorous spark when she bumps into a guy she had previously met in a DWI accident. This is all very timely since she is longing for a beau after so many of her friends have gotten hitched.
Some blokes may find Cris’s character Mei-Ly cute, but is she girlfriend material? Clumsy, insecure, a little neurotic, and plainly dressed, Mei-Ly is not unlike so many stock characters seen in Korean movies and TV serials Thai women are mad about. Her cutesy ways are bearable until we’re shown what she thinks. Director Adisorn Treesirikasem visualizes her musings through full-screen thought bubbles in the form of pseudo-manga takes that are, at best, childish. Any woman who reflects in such a goofy manner is a scary woman indeed.
Ken Teeradej plays the guy, a contented BTS employee and happy BTS commuter. With only some fleeting glimpses into his workplace and a couple of peeks into his sparsely furnished, but enviable riverside house, we do not have enough to know this fellow. He goes by the name Uncle, but there’s nothing avuncular about him, which must be a relief to the women who see him as a sex god. Yes, he’s somewhat charming, but is he intelligent? Does he really have money? We can only guess that both are in the affirmative since he’s an engineer who will further his education in Germany.
For someone working the graveyard shift, Ken emerges into the morning sunlight without looking like he has missed a night’s sleep (and he’s never in a bed). I don’t remember seeing him yawn nor struggle with tiredness. In fact, he’s wakeful enough to watch loads of DVDs, as suggested by his frequent visits to the neighbourhood video rental store. Since his role is not physically or emotionally demanding, Ken has allowed himself to be a lazy actor, and so flat is his performance that without the killer smile of his, the numerous close-ups of him would be a waste and misuse of film.
Which leads to a disturbing question: Are Thai women so concerned with good looks that they prefer a handsome face rather than a handsome personality?