“Geez & Ann” is a high school to college romance among young Indonesian Muslims, a movie whose sharp production values can’t compensate for the woefully incomplete love affair it tries to capture.
To Western eyes, at least, this kiss-less, years-long courtship of rich Geez (Junior Roberts) and working class honor student Ann (Hanggini) can seem chilly, almost bloodless. Giving it a quasi-tragic undertones feels pointless. There’s little obvious (again, to a Western outsider) “spark,” much less “heat” to this romance.
Ann organizes and runs the school talent show, where Geez and his band play (Nickelodeon lip-synching, circa 1997) and where the handsome, bespectacled Geez first sets his cap for Ann.
He leans in. He tries to man-splain/dismiss her competence at getting the power back on when they trip a breaker.
The fact that she falls off a chair into his arms reinforces the patriarchal culture’s take on “romance.”
There’s a proposal later in the film where a young man proffers a ring and offers to “be the one who leads you in life.”
Feel free to bristle at that, but remember, that’s why we travel “Around the World with Netflix.” To see other cultures, their mores etc.
Ann’s posse includes girls in hijabs, but they’re all super-enthusiastic about the attentions of the “most famous alumnus” of their school. He’s just dreamy, as he pursues Ann, stalking her on the bus, etc.
Amusingly, she’s not having it. She puts down his band and his music. But as he follows her to the park where she volunteers as an English lessons tutor for less&advantaged kids, he starts the whole “bowl her own with gifts and attention” thing.
Buying all the kids ice cream gets her on his scooter for a romantic ride.
But Geez has a secret. His controlling, demanding divorced mother (Dewi Rezer) is prepping him to go to school in Berlin, where she studied. He will live out HER dream, make HER “investment” pay off. He will NOT “waste time with music,” like his (implied) no-good father.
He can’t let Mom know about his new “distraction” too soon, can’t introduce Ann to her, even after he’s met and charmed Ann’s parents.
And this goes on for over an hour of the film’s 105 minutes.
The little slices of life are more interesting than the tepid puppy love at the heart of “Geez & Ann.” Teen and college age kids attempt stand-up comedy, and by the time they’re in college, it gets racy enough to include bits about catching your girlfriend “red handed,” etc. And when Geez heads to Berlin, he leaves a friend behind as “periscope,” to keep an eye on Ann, look to her needs and it is implied, spy on her.
Geez has to meet Ann’s parents to show his seriousness and somehow state his intentions. But he’s too gutless to confront mean old Mom, and Ann is too smitten and invested to bail, no matter how obvious it is that she should.
I found the leads cute but bland, with at least some of that attributable to cultural differences. Geez’s “emotional” range is restricted. Maybe “real men don’t get emotional” over there.
Nobody in the supporting cast is fleshed out, save for the mother character. Five screenwriters adapting a Rintik Sedu novel, 105 minutes of screen time, and this “Pretty in Pink” basically boils down to two and a half characters.
That makes “Geez & Ann” nothing more than a cultural curio, an artifact illustrating the wide gulf in Eastern and Western populaces and religions and mores and mores that can’t possibly be closing nearly as slowly as this movie makes out.
MPA Rating: TV-14
Cast: Hanggini, Junior Roberts, Dewi Rezer
Credits: Directed by Rizki Balki, script by Bonky, Amit Jethani, Cassandra Massardi, Muthia Khairunissa and Adi Nugroho, based on the novel by Rintik Sedu. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:45, ,