Girls Who Dig Balls

< Gol & Gincu is like an extended 3R episode. The girl-power slant is to be expected, as the screenplay came from Rafidah Abdullah, co-host and occasional writer for the hip TV-zine with a focus on empowering young women. Featuring kick-ass young girls who also kick balls (ahem!), Gol & Gincu is an enjoyable, feel-good chick flick that addresses teen issues while subtly introducing feminists themes.

There are many important issues tackled – self-image, gender stereotypes, friendships and even a largely unspoken evil that plagues some families (though this movie slyly debunks the prevailing misconception that it is confined only to a certain class of family). That most of the morals of the story can come together in a natural, non-diactic and thoroughly enjoyable package is a credit to both Rafidah and fellow debutante, director Bernard Chauly. They give us believable characters who speak naturally, in a suka-suka mix of Malay and English, as are the wont of middle-class Malaysians conversant in both languages.

There is Putri (Nur Fazura), a bubbly, upper-middle-class teenager with beauty, fashion and boyfriend for hobbies. When the last item drops out of her daily to-do list and starts featuring prominently on another girl’s mobile phone, Putri does not accept things as they are and sets about to get her boyfriend back (an unconvincing epiphany here, by the way).

The errant boyfriend is Eddy (Ashraf Sinclair). A football/futsal maniac, he finds in Shasha (Sazzy Falak in a sizzling performance) a futsal-playing girlfriend whom he thinks suits him better.

Shasha is Putri’s complete opposite as reflected in the people she idolises: for Shasha, cerebral feminists like Camille Paglia rule; for Putri, it’s fashion guru Stella McCartney (these nuggets of characterisation are from the official website, but are not mentioned in the film at all). When Shasha says, “I can’t stand girls like that (Putri),” I nod my head in complete understanding (despite having some Putri tendencies myself). After all, how much cotton candy can you take? Shasha’s is the more complex character and it would have been interesting to have her as the protagonist and see how she came to be such a strong character.

Putri’s best friend Mia (Melissa Maureen) is less flighty but still spun from the same sugar. Her role appears to be Putri’s shopping buddy, sounding board and doormat friend as we are never shown what Putri does for her in return. Putri’s kindness is instead extended to the next door adik, Jiji (Sharifah Amani, who shows why she deserves the Most Promising Actress Award at the recent Malaysian Film Festival), who is struggling with darker issues at home. With Zie (Rafidah) as their coach, Putri forms a motley team whose diverse backgrounds and personal motivations add zing to the group.

The main characters are convincing except for Eddy: Can he turn out to be such a fickle nonentity after giving sound, insightful reasons – incompatibility and the undesirability of polygamy – for breaking up? Despite the contradiction, Ashraf pulls off a credible performance as both the doofus, guilt-ridden boyfriend with something to hide, and the gentle, repentant ex-boyfriend who remembers and misses the ‘cheerleader’ girlfriend he had.

Also, while was a sense of excitement about the game, there was not enough details for vicarious participation. Aside from the amusing insight into how girls block a penalty kick (a quick shot, so watch out for it), we learn nothing about the tactics involved – unless, of course, there isn’t any to begin with. A little more on the progress they make as a team would have helped to make the ending, though predictable, at least more believable.

What makes Gol & Gincu a Malaysian winner is its non-patronising sub-text about embracing our multi-ethnicity, as reflected in the easy-going friendship forged, rather than a mere ‘multi-racial tolerance’. There is no discrimination due to race, gender or class; just one another to count on.

Besides being real, the dialogue also incorporates notes from contemporary urban culture, such as a nose­ thumbing reference to the religious officers’ raid on Zouk in January. The sly reference is not surprising given co­-producer Marina Mahathir’s open opposition to the conduct of the authorities at that raid.

The classic line, though, has to belong to the off-duty woman cop who had to make an unexpected arrest. The Royal Malaysian Police look impressively efficient here. Gerak Khas has nothing on them.

Teens will find in Gol & Gincu many nilai-nilai murni to aspire towards (that the unpredictable Censorship Board let it pass without a single cut says something of the movie), but the brand-conscious lifestyle of the rich and not­ so-rich shouldn’t be one of them. Here’s a jolt of reality: Because of increasing waste due to our consumptive habits, the government wants to build a mega-incinerator at a village less than 50km away from Kuala Lumpur, although the Environmental Impact Assessment Report puts 50km as the minimum distance from an incinerator to a human populated area. Yet we continue to promote via popular media, a lifestyle of consumption with little regard for the capacity of our natural resources to sustain us.

Similarly, I also have reservations about the many product placements in the movie (go ahead, count them). It makes me want to ask: Coke is the choice of the new gen? What happened to the Pepsi Generation? Or the Kickapoo Joy Juice kakis? Or even the Yeo Hiap Seng geng? Okay, maybe the last two brands are out since they don’t position themselves as “reflect[ing] the lifestyle of the young and dynamic” (as Rafidah describes Hotlink, Coke and Adidas, the main sponsors of the movie). Is such ‘win-win’ collaboration between filmmakers and sponsors a portent of local productions to come? It’s an ingenuous advertising method, to be sure, but what price in terms of artistic integrity? On the audiences’ part, would we have to learn to be on our guard for every commercial intrusion when we should be enjoying the aesthetics of the movie as the story unfolds?

With a good-looking cast, a formulaic can-do story, and famous, pedigreed names behind the production, Gol & Gincu is sure to draw in the crowds, with the added appeal of bigwig actors Zahim Albakri (in his vilest role ever), Ida Nerina (much underused) and Khatijah Tan.

But one wonders though why Rafidah, fresh from her success at obtaining a Master’s in scriptwriting with a distinction, chose a debut that – save for the futsal bit – is so similar to a Hollywood hit movie starring Reese Witherspoon, from plot to protagonist, right down to the break-up scene (and no one from Gol & Gincu ever mentioned this as a simple matter of acknowledgement. I stand corrected if I’m wrong). If only that weren’t so, it would have been so easy to shout a whole-hearted “Goal!” for her.


Chuah Siew Eng likes to kick balls too, but her aim isn’t so good, so guys better watch out.

First Published: 16.08.2005 on Kakiseni

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