12 Storeys is Eric Khoo's follow up to Mee Pok Man. The opening montage of various scenes around the residential estates prepares the audience for things to come, that the focus will be on the everyday man, and their supposed challenges they face in their daily lives.
We start off with lingering shots of a man, who commits suicide, and we explore and glimpse into the lives and relationships of 3 heartland families through his eyes, in one 12 Storey block.
There's the abusive mother and dutiful adopted daughter. With her acid tongue and no holds barred rude comments about almost everything about her daughter, the old lady rants on and on about the way she looks, dresses and hurls about almost every abusive (non vulgar) Cantonese insult. You emphatize and feel for the daughter, going through with comparisons, and wondering what will eventually make her snap, if she could.
Jack Neo plays a buck-toothed henpecked hawker husband to Quan Yi Feng's sarcastic China bride, bringing to the screen every conceivable prejudice against Chinese women, with their perceived gold-digging and flirtatious ways. She hits back though, with stark comments about Singaporean society, and offers an introspective look into the way the Ugly Singaporean behaves.
Koh Boon Pin was excellent as the protective and authoritative brother Meng, to Lum May Yee's rebellious and independent Trixie and Ritz Lim's Tee. The Meng-Trixie relationship undergoes the most changes in this film - the start which shows a rather happy family, which progresses into destruction as one member forces his opinions and perceptions onto the other, resulting in an unexpected revelation too difficult for one member to fathom, like a blow to one's pride.
Although each storyline is distinct, the narrative intercuts between the three, and sometimes gelled together with subtle humor, or witty coffeeshop banter amongst regulars. I particularly enjoyed the coffeeshop talk, where they talk cock about current affairs of the day (Michael Fay, 4D, etc), or poke fun or insult the other characters of the story, like the adopted daughter, and the henpecked husband. It's these scenes that make this film so real, these rumours and gossips of idle chatter, something which most Jack Neo movies seem to feature too (perhaps picked up from here?)
Prominent local actors like Lim Kay Siu, Neo Swee Lin, Lim Kay Tong, etc make cameo appearances, which added additional flavour to the movie. Songs sung by Lum May Yee and Humpback Oak were also nice touches throughout the film.
With a snapshot of a cross section of society, we end off without really having most conflicts resolved. Perhaps that's a reflection of life, that when challenges occur, sometimes you have an answer, and sometimes you may not, but life, will always go on.
Those interested in catching this film, there will be additional screenings at The Arts House on 16 Aug 05 Tue 2130hrs and 28 Aug 05 Sun 2130hrs, which has a special appearance by director Eric Khoo himself.
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