REVIEW: ‘Kongsi Raya’ Is a Nice Mix of Rom-Com and Cooking Show

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Kongi Raya - But Why Tho

Kongsi Raya is a Malaysian film directed by Teddy Chin named for the infrequent calendar concurrence of the Chinese Lunar New Year and Eid ul-Fitr. It’s about a Chinese man, Jack (Wilson Lee), and a Malaysian woman, Sharifah (Qasrina Karim) who fall in love and plan to marry but fear their fathers, Rahim (Harith Iskander) and Abang (Chew Kin Wahwon’t approve of their interracial relationship. And, well, they’re right. Some antics lead to the next, and eventually, the two fathers, both prolific professional chefs, are facing off in a head-to-head cooking contest.

There’s no doubt from square one that Kongsi Raya is a totally cheesy rom-com. The music, acting, and concept just moan with cheesiness. But it’s a certain kind of cheese that is self-aware of itself enough that the cheesiness is a part of the act rather than a byproduct of poor writing or production or acting. It’s simply a film that chooses to live in a world of silly, over-the-top, and predictable. And it uses this to its full advantage, ending up with a fun flick with the lowest high-stakes conceit there could be.

The main characters are certainly cute in their romance. Their bickering is a bit much for me, and the entire framing device 10 years in the future seems almost detrimental. It both tells you exactly how the movie will end and dis-endears you from the characters and how much they’re fighting for no reason. But at the same time, the movie isn’t really entirely about Jack and Sharifah anyway. It’s much more about their parents.

The main characters are already madly in love when we meet them. The movie’s plot has nothing to do with them falling in love and everything to do with convincing their parents to let them marry each other. This leads to a whole ruse where Sharifah is trying to warm her parents up to the idea of intermarriage by using a made-up friend as a proxy. But when Jack comes over on the night, he tells his parents, and his father basically disowns him. He has to dress up as Sharifah’s made-up friend Siti so as not to tip Sharifah’s parents off. It was a bit awkward of a plot device to me at first, but it quickly turns funny and creates a whole number of innocently comedic moments without devolving into anything sexist or disquieting.

Eventually, the centerpiece of the show takes place, a cookoff between the two fathers, and I definitely appreciate the way that the show here and in several earlier scenes prioritizes showing off the cooking process, plating, tasting, and explanation of the various cultural dishes served throughout. It’s done much in the style of good cooking shows, which makes sense because Rahim is the famous star of one, but it’s seamlessly integrated into the show without using any suddenly different editing. It adds a fun additional element to everything.

I’m also rather impressed with the acting. This is the type of movie that doesn’t take itself overly seriously, despite its serious topic. The physical acting, particularly Rahim, Jack’s brother Xiao (Teddy Chin), and Sharifah, is very exaggerated, and the music is quite corny. But everyone absolutely sells their roles and do quite excellent jobs switching back and forth almost instantly between goofy and serious when the moment calls for it. It all melds together to maintain a light tone, but clearly, the cast is quite adept at both comedic and dramatic acting.

Racism, interpersonal or system, isn’t solved by a rom-com, a cooking contest, or a single interracial marriage. It’s a little too easy to go into Kongsi Raya, expecting it to be too hokey for its own good. But really, its simplicity and its sincerity are transgressive unto themselves. Film’s ability to depict a perfect world where two disparate families might have the chance to become one harmonious family doesn’t need to reflect anything but the desires of its fantasy. And because it’s so earnest, it’s not only an endearing movie but a bold one unto itself.

Kongsi Raya is a light-hearted rom-com that isn’t really about its romantic leads as much as it is about their parents learning to accept their love. It’s a story you that’s concept is as old as time but still feels pertinent in a modern world and is only added to by its extra cooking elements. The framing device and some of the longwinded bits of arguing get to be too much sometimes, but overall, it’s an enjoyable movie.

Kongsi Raya is streaming now exclusively on Netflix.


Kongi Raya
  • 7.5/10
    Rating - 7.5/10
7.5/10

TL;DR

Kongsi Raya is a light-hearted rom-com that isn’t really about its romantic leads as much as it is about their parents learning to accept their love. It’s a story you that’s concept is as old as time but still feels pertinent in a modern world and is only added to by its extra cooking elements. The framing device and some of the longwinded bits of arguing get to be too much sometimes, but overall, it’s an enjoyable movie.