Sex sells. So you can’t go wrong with a film about sexy-time, right? Believe us, there are lots of heavy moaning, masturbating men and dirty positions in Rubbers. But unfortunately, the movie chaffs more than it pleases.
Set on Valentine’s Day, the three short tales that comprise the movie – Nightmare, Balloons and The Plumber – are spliced together and abruptly cut from one to the next. Perhaps it would’ve been better to let each one shine on its own, without the arthouse acrobatics.
Nightmare, true to its name, is the most jarring and out of place. Adam (Tay), a womaniser and condom-hating Casanova, is made an example of when a playful warning turns into a freakish hallucination ending with his private bits getting hacked off. In contrast, Balloons tells a bittersweet tale of longtime married couple, Ah Hua (Sng) and Ah Niu (Chin). Teetering on the edge of divorce after years of Ah Niu’s philandering ways, they both begin to recall the days of old when their love was young and unscathed. Ah, nostalgia.
The highlight performance comes from Yeo Yann Yann, who throws all inhibition to the wind in her portrayal of the lonely Baoling in The Plumber. Egged on by a talking durian-flavoured condom (yes, we were kind of weirded out, too), she attempts to seduce a plumber to hilarious effect.
This scene is a fitting example of the type of Singaporean humour employed in Rubbers: slapstick and on-the-nose, with cringe-worthy antics plucked straight out of MediaCorp’s joke archives. At times, it feels like a flimsy disguise for a condom or safe sex ad, but it admittedly has its moments. Like when Adam switches the languages on his TV, prompting Oon Shu An’s porn star character to spew naughty talk in Hokkien and Singlish. Or when Ah Hua snatches a salesman’s dildo and uses it to massage her neck with businesslike precision. But for all the brazen sex speak, the only time this R21 film comes close to nudity is a glimpse of a bare behind, hidden by a chair. Yep, that’s our clean city for you.
Read our interview with director Han Yew Kwang.