Inarguably, Kepompong might be one of the most memorable Indonesian pop-culture paraphernalia from 2008. The daytime teen series went on releasing 290-ish episodes between 2008 and 2009 while resurging former child actor Derby Romero‘s career. At the same time, the series saw the rise of newcomer Mikha Tambayong and the gush of the one-hit cult-classic song by Sind3ntosca.
More than a decade later, a feature film reworks elements from the original series into a timeless high-school drama called Persahabatan Bagai Kepompong. One of the original writers, Alim Sudio, returns on the writing desk; meanwhile, Sentot Sahid (usually known as a film editor) sits on the director’s chair. However, it’s not a mere adaptation; it’s more of a spiritual reimagining as the 2008 series enticingly exists in the universe where this new story takes place.
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The story revolves around an all-female junior high school clique called ‘Kepompong’ (trans. cocoon) led by Isabel (Yasmin Napper from Imperfect). The clique members (including Jihan Safira, Shanice Margaretha, and Thalita Putri Riantani) claim to have been inspired by the protagonists of the original series and somehow mirror their personalities over Kepompong‘s characters. Kepompong is in a current turf war against The Fabulous Diva, the popular mean girls, led by Paula (Cut Beby Tshabina), for a prom night proposal. When a newly nerd, Ben (Bio One) arrives, the school rivalry gets heated up uncontrollably, especially when his arrival also disrupts another school faction — a group of bullies called Mafioso.
Ben serves as a surrogate to all conflicts in Persahabatan Bagai Kepompong (trans. friendship is like a cocoon). His entrance wasn’t necessarily an interesting one. After his mother passes away and his father leaves for work on another island, he becomes lost. Therefore, his encounter with Kepompong is like a spiritual metamorphosis. The cocooning is like the vault for him to rediscover himself and, in the process, help his friends rediscovering their inner self as they come of age.
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As a surrogate, Ben also harbors the story’s observation of Isabel and Paula’s feud — which roots from bleaker and more complicated backstories than it seems on the surface. At the same time, he helps to empower himself and his fellow nerds to stand up for themselves against the unforgiving high school tension. With a series of conflicts intersecting with one another, Persahabatan Bagai Kepompong might feel a little too long yet too crowded at the same time. However, the fleshed-out conflicts are neatly presented without getting too convoluted in the process. Some minor conflicts are relegated into a mere garnish; but, they have meaningful impacts on the plot development albeit limited. The key is there’s a fine line to connect each conflict and seam them all together into a wholesome story about friendship and self-discovery.
In the acting department, Bio One delivers a surprisingly convincing performance as an ordinary guy who turns to be the story’s real hero. His performance might hit the over-the-top border at some points, but when his subtleties creep in, it’s enticing to see alongside Napper and Tshabina provide catalysts to the protagonist. While other clique members are reduced to distant supporting roles, they add just enough vibrant colors to the storyline. It’s important that the story of Persahabatan Bagai Kepompong completes its cycle without hinting at any follow-up whatsoever; even when some of the characters deserve spin-offs or another story on any platform.