Saturday, April 11

Review: Hormones (Thailand, 2008)

ปิดเทอมใหญ่ หัวใจว้าวุ่น
Pidtermyai huajai wawoon (Hormones)

Directed by Songyos Sugmakanan (Dorm)
Starring Ter Chantawit (Coming Soon), Charlie Trairat (Dorm), Sirachuch Chienthaworn, Sora Aoi


Hormones smells like teen spirit: sweaty, giddy, nervous. It's close to impossible not to get carried away with the film's electrifying youthfulness, and for us thirtysomethings, it's a nostalgic replay of days being wild, wild equals the abandon to make mistakes.

Director Singyos Sugmakanan knows the addictive riffs of young love all to well. Whether it's competing with a friend to get a girl's number, obsessing over a pop star, confessing love to a popular girl at school or contemplating cheating, Sugmakanan cleverly balances tenderness with shameless stupidity, the guy thing and the girl thing pinned down without the complexeties of melodrama.

Pu (Charlie Trairat) and Mai (Sirachuch Chienthaworn), dickheads for hearthrobs, fall at the same time for Nana (Ungsumalynn Sirapatsakmetha), a plump former schoolmate who has blossomed into a sweet, shy stunner. Both compete for her number, both fall quite hard. (There's a scene where Nana cuts her finger from opening a soda can and Mai, out of instinct, sucks the blood from her finger, wraps a band-aid around it and draws a heart on the blood stain. My adult mind was taken aback by the relaxed sensuality; my overworked memory understood but could no longer grasp such innocence.)

Oh Lek (Best Supporting Actress winner Focus Jirakul) is obsessing over Taiwanese singer Didi (Lu Ting Wei), obsessing so much that she picks up Chinese language lessons just so she could understand the lyrics to his songs. Though the weakest plot of the four when it comes to character growth, it does paint the loneliest kind of love, completely loyal, completely unconditional, and utterly impossible.

Bespectacled class geek Jo (Ratchu Surachalas) is in love with popular girl Cee (Chutima Teepanat) and resorts to mimicking a scene from Love Actually to confess his love, to which Cee replies, "That's not how it works." Really? I liked this the most---stubbornly molding reality to be as picturesque as fiction myself---the reality check that separates the hormones from growing pains.

And finally, the most adult of the bunch shows the endearing Chantawit "Ter" Thanasawee as Hern, a boyfriend who is tempted to cheat on his girlfriend Nuan (Thaniya Ummaritchoti) when he meets Japanese tourist Aoi (Japanes adult AV star Sora Aoi). I can already hear my girlfriends drawing the line but, it's really a guy thing. A momentary lapse is all it is. (Hides from under the table and waves white flag.)

Hormones rages with muscular verve, seamlessly cutting from one story to the next, to the tune of catchy, guitar-driven Thai pop. It only slows down when Sugmakanan attempts to wrap a bow around the fairytale ending of the fangirl storyline but still manages to finish with determined optimism that only comes with youth.

In the end, most characters are running toward a brand new chapter in their lives while some take a step back, content at the way things were, teen spirit in all its awkward glory.

4/5

17 comments:

Theo Martin said...

SHucks, poster pa lang gusto ko panoorin! Thorrrrr! wala akong perang pangthailand. San to pwede mahagilap! ;0 grabe ka na manginggit! :0

Thor Bee said...

Hi, Theo! Sobrang cute to, Best Picture nominee sa mga film awards sa Thailand last year.

Borrowed this from a friend na Sora Aoi fan, hehe.

Tagal ko na rin hinahanap to, kahit sa Quiapo wala pa.

Thor Bee said...

@Theo: Balitaan kita pag may mga nakikita ako sa tabi-tabi. :D

Theo Martin said...

Thor, basta pramis mo yan ha. Sabihan mo lang ako! kung may free viewing ka ng mga ganito tapos discussion afterwards I would highly appreciate it! :)

Thor Bee said...

What a great idea, Theo! A movie club with a book club set-up. Sana nga no? I wish I had the resources and space to do host one.

little said...

hei i just saw this movie recently... pretty funny hhaha...
Hmmm Thailand can do funny after all... usually they make scary movie...

i'm indonesian.... have you link to download this ost...

Thor Bee said...

Hi, little! Thanks for dropping by!

Yeah, I love this movie, too. Funny AND touching at the same time. You should check out Best of Times if and when it gets shown there. Not a comedy but a good drama from GTH.

Sorry, I don't know where to get a hold of the OST. :(

Kevin said...

Alas, I'm interested in "Best of Times", but has that even been released on DVD yet? Worse yet is finding Thai movies with English subtitles.

Of the Songyos Sugmakanan movies though, Fan Chan got a Taiwan DVD with English subtitles. Dorm got a Region 1 release with English subtitles. Hormones got no such treatment apparently (even the Taiwan version). So....I had to resort to it posted on YouTube, a solution I normally find deplorable.

Otherwise, I loved the movie. 23 years old so I'm not too far off from target audience. It's one of the few movies that makes me really want to be a teenager one more time (although some of the college aged characters weren't really "teenagers" anymore). Most romantic comedies about teenagers are condescending and caricatured beyond belief.

And I, surprisingly, found the Joe/Cee sections of the movie to be my favorite. Somebody so unabashedly geeky and doesn't apologize for it at least deserves a little bit of awed respect.

Kevin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kevin said...

Apologize for the reply spamming. Deleted the original cause I made a mistake in spelling. But the soundtrack can be found at

www.ethaicd.com

under its Thai title: OST - Pid Term Yai Hua Jai Wah Woon

Just ordered mine yesterday actually.

Thor Bee said...

Hi, Kevin!

Thanks for dropping by. I got a hold of the Hormones OST the last time I visited Bangkok. The Big Ass track and Groove Rider track, which Joe and Cee were dancing and singing to are my favorites. Great song also from Scrubb.

There are fansubs floating over the net of Hormones and what I did was I bought the original Thai DVD, opened it with VLC player, dragged the .srt file onto the screen, and voila! You can already watch with English subtitles.

I was lucky to catch a screening of Best of Times in BKK; I really liked the movie. It's really such a shame that there are no subs in the Thai DVD release, no fansubs also to help people out who want to see it.

Isn't it sometimes so difficult to be a fan of Thai movies? I mean, we are willing to spend but the DVDs are just not available. It's just sad that we sometimes have to resort to youtube just so we can watch Thai movies.

Kevin said...

Oh? Does that actually work with the VLC player? What do you do? Choose to play the movie on the DVD, then just drag the subtitles over and there is no problem with timing or anything? I was considering doing that, but I'm not actually too familiar with how the VLC player works. If you have working subtitles, I'd appreciate if you sent the SRT files to me at Ketaru3654@gmail.com. Maybe I'll buy the DVD the next time around on YesAsia (I still don't know how I would go on living if this site didn't exist).

Mostly trying to see what good movies there are beyond western cinema and Thailand seems to have quite a bit that I would enjoy. It's just a shame that America is willing to localize all sorts of movies from other countries, such as drama and romantic comedy. But when it comes to East Asian (or Southeast Asian, as it were) countries, it's all only about Horror or Action.

Thor Bee said...

@Kevin: I picked up the VLC tips from this wonderful site where you can also download subtitles.

Here it is: http://www.bangkok1080.asia/items/view/135/english-subtitles-for-thai-movies

That said, it doesn't have the Hormones subtitles. The subs that I have of Hormones is not very good, the English is quite bad.

I'm currently writing subs for it from French subs that I found on the net.

---------------

I have to agree with you that when it comes to cinema from SE Asia, the ones that get to be released on Region 1 are mostly the extreme horror-action types. It's very, very sad that it has fallen under that stereotype. Thailand, Korea, Hong Kong, and even the Philippines have been churning out more provocative dramas and even a few excellent light-hearted fare but it seems like these will never see a decent release with English subtitles.

Matthew Chookiat Weerasethakul's 13 Beloved is available on Amazon; he directed the teen-family drama Love of Siam. It's a violent movie but it offers more than the usual torture porn.

The definitive site for Thai movies is Wise Kwai's Thai Film Journal, if you want to check it out. I have posted a link to his blog on my site.

Cheers!

Kevin said...

I'm beginning to wonder if it would be more appropriate to continue this discussion in e-mail (or continue it at all, before it drags on indefinitely), but anyway...

I'm familiar with Wise Kwai's site. It is actually where I'm finding out about some movies (like the mentioned The Best of Times, I'm kind of interested in checking out Dear Galileo if I'm ever given the opportunity too). I'm also familiar with The Love of Siam. Read about that one on a blog that somebody I went to college with wrote. It is also one of the films I attribute to me checking out Thai cinema...and it's got a great soundtrack to boot (I'm a bit of a soundtrack fan. I buy the soundtrack of every movie/game I like if it's available)

I'm an Asian American (specifically Chinese American), and I don't want to turn this into a discussion about race. But in a way, I wonder if part of the appeal to me is seeing characters that are more like myself being portrayed in a more true to life manner, if only because it's not a problem in Asia the way it is in America (actually, it is a problem according to some, but definitely not expressed in the same way). You've heard the stereotypes: academic, passionless, nerdy, asexual, complacent, model minority. It's a relief suddenly seeing characters who worry about things like family, falling in love, having an interest in popular culture (!). In Hormones, even the stereotypical nerd that people here would most associate with the Asian stereotype gets hit hard by disappointment, which was oddly attractive to me.

Sorry to drag the comments off in a direction about ethnicity in the west. Merely wondering if that is what part of the appeal to me is.

Thor Bee said...

I don't usually get to interact with fans of Asian films on a personal level and I find our conversation very refreshing. I don't mind long exchanges at all.

Before I went back to working in advertising, I was with a non-government organization that preserved and disseminated Filipino culture through literature and lectures. I had a chance to work with a group of Filipino-Americans who came to the Philippines to live with ordinary Filipino families so they could have a better understanding of Filipino culture. In my exchanges with them, they expressed a sentiment similar to yours---they were constantly seeking out films and books that they could relate to for a connection more personal than political.

I think it even goes beyond a sense of understanding. In my case, Asian films have become like comfort food; finding comfort in films is a rarity in this age of CGI-gastic blockbusters.

Maybe that is a huge part of the appeal, natural and honest portrayals without a Western point of view (stereotypes, romanticism, etc.). But more than that, Asian directors and writers also tell and write stories differently. This is a generalization, of course, but for the sake of making a point, Asian films are more deliberate in letting a story unfold. The Love of Siam took its time to establish its characters, to explore Mew and Tong's loneliness before the major tension was introduced. And it didn't have a Hollywood ending either. With Hormones, and I agree with everything you pointed out, eccentricities were established but the film also revealed other quirks that made each character unique. I do love the fact that even if Joe was a geek, he was also pretty cool---he was a film buff, he partied, he was passionate and was brave enough to admit reality. Loved it when he took down the grand sign he made for Cee.

I've also read a few reviews that said that the younger couple in Best of Times didn't have chemistry. Which I think was the point. And quite brave for the director to highlight. Some couples just don't work out in real life.

Maybe it's the "real-ness" of situations and characters that get to me. Maybe it's the shared experience. Maybe it's seeing actors who share my features play roles that share my past and present.

It's a lot of things really. But it's definitely a unique joy that I could only find in Asian cinema.

Now, look who's dragged on and on.

And I haven't even talked about how much I love the Love of Siam OST and August Band's new album.

You can email me at thor.threesixty@gmail com, just in case you're finding posting comments tiresome. :-)

Kevin said...

No, I don't think there is much else to talk about. I'll just leave it as this:

Tying with my comment on Dorm, Songyos Sugmakanan got me to care about a fangirl who screams at the sight of cardboard cutouts of a pop idol. Something that is annoying and irritating at the beginning of the film is a thing of joy and warm fuzzies at the end. If he can get me to care about that, who knows what else he's capable of...

...Incidentally, speaking of that particular girl, my Fan Chan DVD is ready to be shipped out.

simplyme said...

This movie is good which initially focuses on about teenage life and the love relationships that are commonly present realistically. Well, there are actually two places that connects all the characters really; Y-50 and the moviehouse. There are funny parts but they are minimal and again, it focuses more on what it want to present.