In his fifth movie, Ernest Prakasa returns to his forte—family drama-comedy tropes—after a high-profile gig, directing Ada Apa dengan Cinta spinoff, Milly & Mamet. In Imperfect (subtitled Karier, Cinta & Timbangan, trans. Career, Love & Weight Scale), the writer-slash-director-slash-actor throws an uplifting Mean Girls-esque formula, the director’s penchant for warm dramedy, and a bold message about body positivity all on the boards. It has everything you can expect from an Ernest Prakasa movie—grounded story, heartfelt reconciliation drama, instant laughs, and exhilarating line-ups of comic reliefs.
Written by the director’s spouse, Meira Anastasia, Imperfect has a relatively more straightforward narrative in comparison to Prakasa’s own writing, which usually tends to over-populating the stories (for good, as in Cek Toko Sebelah, or for bad, as in Susah Sinyal). The story follows Rara (Jessica Milla, with a praiseworthy drastic transformation) as she observes a society which demands certain kind of beauty standards—which apparently gives too much credit for physical traits rather than to cognitive traits. While ironical, this story hits almost too close to home; therefore, it makes Imperfect the director’s most universal work to date.
The conflicts rooted in the pressure to achieve the so-called beauty standards. At home, the pressure comes constantly from her mother (Karina Suwandi) who keeps boasting about her sister, Lulu (Yasmin Napper), a social-media beauty enthusiast. At work, the pressure comes when she aims for a promotion. While she might be eligible for the promotion due to her diligent work ethos and creative minds, she might not get it since the company is looking for a fairer persona to be the face of the company. Meanwhile, Dika (Reza Rahadian) comes as a supportive lover who sees and accepts Rara as she’s always been.
Imperfect takes the wheel away from the road that Susah Sinyal took and made a story that connects smoothly with the audiences. While the body positivity message might be a little too tongue-to-cheek at some points, the whole elements add proper expositions to the plot. Meira Anastasia’s script does not lean on being strictly following the beauty standards or aggressively subverting the standards, which has often gone wrong and forced toxic positivity. It does not attempt to preach audiences with solutions or labels; instead, the plot offers an insight into self-acceptance and finding the best version of oneself. Imperfect also nudges on the importance of a positive support system that works properly, as in the Reza Rahadian’s character and Shareefa Daanish’s tomboy officemate, Fey.
The narrative, however, can be a little convoluted at times and, at some other times, self-righteous; but, it stays intact within the trajectory. Most importantly, Prakasa utilizes his flair for satirical comedy to capture the entire message effectively. As in his usual fashion, comic reliefs might steal the show; this time, they steal harder even with a stronger relevance to the whole story. Manifested in the four tenants at Dika’s house—Neti (Kiky Saputri), Prita (the usual collaborator, Aci Resti), Endah (Neneng Wulandari), and Maria (Zsazsa Utari), the quartet might be Prakasa’s most exhilarating characters since the storekeepers in Cek Toko Sebelah. Judging from his ability to create a self-sustaining roster of character models, it might be surprising to see how Ernest Prakasa ventures in creating a long-running show or, even, a franchise.
Speaking of characters, the protagonists of the story might have a less interesting development in the narrative, mostly due to the story’s familiarity. Fortunately, Jessica Milla and Reza Rahadian carry the chemistry between them superbly. Milla, making a huge atonement from the trainwreck, portrays the insecurity quite convincingly while having dynamic connections with several other characters respectively. Yasmin Napper showcases another kind of insecurity interestingly, juxtaposing Milla’s character’s insecurity. Shareefa Daanish, on the other hand, has successfully redefined her career to gradually crawl out from the horror-queen typecast.
Imperfect is a huge story, with huge scopes and high levels of relatability, which hits close to home. It might be self-righteous and overly zestful in carrying the message at times; this time, it’s for good. At last, the message is delivered.
Further movie information: Imperfect on FilmIndonesia.or.id