Sissy Prescillia and Dennish Adishwara in 'Milly & Mamet,' directed by Ernest Prakasa and Meira Anastasia. (Photo courtesy of Starvision)

'Milly & Mamet': Do We Really Need Yet Another Feel-Good Movie About Middle-Class Jakarta?


DECEMBER 14, 2018

Jakarta. Since 2016, Indonesian film fans can always look forward to a feel-good family movie every Christmas from stand up comedian-cum-director Ernest Prakasa.

This year is no different. Ernest and his wife and co-director Meira Anastasia will soon release "Milly & Mamet," a spinoff from the classic teen movie "Ada Apa Dengan Cinta?" ("What’s Up With Love?", best known in Indonesia by its acronym AADC).

Milly and Mamet are the quirky couple from the sequel, "Ada Apa Dengan Cinta? 2."

Their marriage came as a surprise to fans since in the original AADC Mamet was head-over-heels in love with teen queen Cinta.

Milly & Mamet's tagline, "Ini Bukan Cinta & Rangga" ("This is Not Cinta & Rangga"), suggests the less-celebrated couple's love story could be a little different to that of the brooding poet and happy-go-lucky girl in AADC.

In press conferences before the movie’s release, Ernest kept saying that Milly & Mamet’s story will be more down-to-earth and relatable.

The movie manages to be more relatable to middle-class Jakartans alright, and that's about it.

None of Ernest's signature fresh take and gentle ribbing of Indonesian society is present in the movie.

Let's take a quick look back at the director's previous films.

His semi-autobiographical first feature, "Ngenest," argued that constant bullying forces many Chinese-Indonesian children like himself to question their own identity, and that they pass on their trauma to their own children.

Ernest's next film, the comedy "Cek Toko Sebelah" ("Check Out the Shop Next Door"), gave us a rare close-up look into the dynamics of a Chinese-Indonesian family. The film is about to be adapted into a web series.

Last year's "Susah Sinyal" ("Poor Reception") tried to criticize how much the internet has changed family relationships.

Milly & Mamet gives many AADC fans what they want, an extended backstory of the titular couple, but nothing more.

Middle Class All the Way

Milly & Mamet is a typical story of a young, newly married (with one child already), upper-middle class couple living in suburban Jakarta (or Jakarta’s neighboring city, Bekasi, since it’s implied in a scene that they live in the gated housing estate Harapan Indah) and trying to climb up the social ladder.

Their (first world) problems predictably revolve around compromises they have to make as a married couple and the anxiety that comes from wanting to chase their dreams but also not having the guts to give up the security that comes from their day job.

The film, like a good teen movie should, starts with a high school reunion, during which Mamet (Dennis Adishwara) catches up with Cinta and her OG girl squad.

Mamet, noticing that Milly's (Sissy Prescillia) boyfriend Rama (Surya Saputra) is not picking her up from the party, comes to the rescue.

Predictably, his car breaks down, the couple get talking as they wait roadside for a mechanic, and sparks fly.

Fast forward 10 years later, Milly and Mamet are now married with their firstborn, Sakti.

Having quit her job at a bank, Milly is now a stay-at-home mom, while Mamet grinds away at Milly’s father's (Roy Marten) garment factory.

Mamet's real passion is cooking, but he dutifully remains at the factory until an argument with his father-in-law forces him to leave his job.

Right on cue, Mamet's best friend from college, Alex (Julie Estelle), comes back into the picture, offering Mamet the chance of a lifetime: to open up a restaurant with himself as a chef.

Alex even has an investor in tow already, her boyfriend James (Yoshi Sudarso).

Mamet takes the opportunity gleefully and, of course, problems ensue.

Milly gets jealous of Alex. She starts telling Mamet that it's now time for her to return to the workforce and be more than just a housewife. And then rumors start to swirl around that the money Alex and Mamet uses to open up the restaurant has been obtained illegally.

Replace Milly and Mamet with any random couple, not a couple that have been with us since the original AADC, and we are left with yet another run-of-the-mill parenthood drama.

The movie's idea of parenthood is also very problematic, siding with mainstream gender roles instead of challenging them, as could be expected from Meira's involvement as a co-writer and co-director.

In one scene, Mamet snaps at Milly for leaving the baby at home with the maid. He blames her for being busy (Milly had just started her new job) and having no time for Sakti.

If you think that Milly & Mamet is a portrait of a "woke" suburban family, then wake up and smell the rotten roses.

Milly & Mamet doesn't prescribe equal share of parenting, instead Milly – with Mamet's angry words still ringing in her ears – starts taking Sakti to work.

At the end of the movie – spoiler alert – the couple decides to open a healthy food catering called "Milly’s Meal." Sadly, this is not a call for female emancipation, but simply a way for Mamet to get away from his new restaurant, which turns out to be a money-laundering scheme.

Nostalgia = FAIL

But wouldn't AADC's famously rabid fans squeal with excitement anyway when they see Cinta's original girl squad reunite in Milly & Mamet?

Maybe – if you can ignore the awkwardness whenever Cinta, Milly, Karmen and Maura appear together on screen.

In AADC 2, Cinta asks Karmen (Adinia Wirasti) to join the other girls for a holiday in Yogyakarta because they "rarely go out together."

If the high school besties were drifting apart then, things have obviously not improved now.

The other characters are just there in the movie to evoke a sense of nostalgia and – despite the movie's tagline distancing Milly and Mamet from Cinta and Rangga – to convince audience that the movie is still part of the AADC universe.

The best thing from this totally ordinary movie could be the cameos from Ernest's stand up comedian friends, one of the trademarks of his films. There are more than a few laughs to be had there.

Sadly these comic intervals are too few and far between, unlike in Ernest's previous movies.

That the movie stays true to its middle-class values and doesn't try to punch above its weight could also be praiseworthy.

At least now you know that if you have to choose between career and family, now you can have both, just open an online shop and run it from the comfort of your home in the suburb.

Milly & Mamet will be released on Dec. 20.