What is the story about?
Ali (Iqbaal Ramadhaan) is left to stay with his father in Indonesia while his mother Mia (Marissa Anita) follows her dream to become a successful singer and flies away to New York. When Mia refuses to return home, Ali's father divorces her and cuts off all ties with her, including that of Ali's. After his father passes away from a heart attack, now all grown up, Ali decides to fly to New York in search of his mother against the wishes of his family. Once he reaches New York, he finds himself in the company of four uproarious "aunties" from Indonesia, Party (Nirina Zubir), Acheng (Tika Panggabean), Biyah (Asri Welas) and Chinta (Happy Salma) who are trying to make it in the Big Apple as well. The story then revolves around Ali's search for his mother, the unlikely family he finds in a strange city and a truth that no one prepared him for.
There is a line that is spoken by the protagonist, Ali in the film and it says "no one is perfect and neither are their dreams". This solo line, lost in a monologue actually forms the foundation of Ali and Ratu Ratu Queens.
Lucky Kuswandi's film tells a tale that is not unheard of. New York as a mirage or fool's gold has been used by many a movie and series but it's the narrative of the film that makes the difference and chooses to put the spotlight, not on the "devious" city but on the people who dare to dream, and dream of New York. At the core of it, Ali and Ratu Ratu Queens is about finding family in strangers, calling a faraway city your home and detaching yourself from a past that you thought would define your future. The beauty of Kuswandi's film is not in the narrative of the protagonist but the story of the other characters that make him realise his true self.
Ali and Ratu Ratu Queens is one of the few films that made me experience and enjoy the American culture shock from a culture that is different from my own as well. Not as serious as Tigertail perhaps, but Ali and Ratu Ratu Queens is a comedy-drama that also focuses on individuals from a different country trying to achieve the American dream.
The titular "Queens of Queens" Party, Chinta, Biyah and Acheng absolutely stole the film and made it their own. Each of the actresses was so suited in their character skins that it almost felt a shame that the movie was simply not about these girlfriends making it in the American city of dreams. Hats off to Nirina Zubir, Tika Panggabean, Asri Welas and Happy Salma for giving us such memorable characters. The silent shining star of the film was Marissa Anita who was absolutely stunning as the conflicted mother. She embodied the pain of her character so well that even though the narrative painted her in a way that made her the so-called villain of this fairytale, your heart went out to her. Anita created empathy where it was needed so that the audience could grasp a story that perhaps the actor wanted to tell of her character.
Iqbaal Ramadhaan as the lost puppy Ali was believable with his performance; not overdoing or undermining who he is supposed to play. Ali was written into a story that is cliche but Ramadhaan's performance made us believe his story. Aurora Ribero as Eva is beautiful, charming and lights up the scene when she is onscreen.
Music & Other Departments
The songs were the spirit of Ali and Ratu Ratu Queens. They did not interfere in the scene but made you enjoy the performances of the actors even more. Each of the songs became unexpected narrators of the scenes they were added to. Three songs that in my opinion really gave the scenes definition and gave me goosebumps were "Location Unknown" by Honne feat. BEKA, "Why Would I Be" by Teddy Adhitya and "i love you" by Billie Eilish.
The cinematography felt personal with tight shots allowing the audience to look at New York or even buildings and houses through the perspective of the characters who demanded to be seen and to be heard. The film did not deviate from the focal point of the story to show the grandness of New York but kept it limited to what the plot demanded which otherwise would have made the film tedious and long.
Makeup, clothing and set design were minimal and accessorized the characters to suit their personalities.
Ginatri S. Noer has written strong characters that are perfected by the performances of the actors in the film. And while you root for the protagonist in the big city, your heart also goes out to the other characters who thankfully are not just a road map to Ali's journey. The film also has the charm of surprising you in unexpected moments which becomes fodder for your curiosity.
The story, while starts as a unique one it loses its grasp over reality very quickly. Soon you realise that you are watching a watered-down fairytale film that cannot be more than slice-of-life. Things happen which make you question the sanity of it like Ali walking into a University and asking for a scholarship based on one animated short film and a couple of sketches that he made of the city while sitting on a park bench. I wish there was a little more perspective drawn from real life to not make Ali and Rati Ratu Queens another Netflix feel-good movie.
Did I enjoy it?
A light and breezy film that does not let you realise that it is an hour and forty minutes long. Ali and Ratu Ratu Queens is the perfect film for when you are feeling down and need to watch something that does not burden your mind with thoughts and cheers you up as well.
Do I recommend it?
The film does not demand a mood and you can watch it anytime. Give it a try.