Radio! Ready Oh! belongs to the genre of Taiwanese screwball comedy more often characterized by quick laughs, a nonsensical plot, and established tropes more than anything else. In this respect, the film is nothing new, drawing on well-trod elements in its plot. However, the film proves a surprisingly competent example of this genre, thanks to a creative script, and skilled acting.
Shirley, an introverted and meek office worker that recently left her job in finance, goes for a job interview at a new company. Shirley is encouraged to apply for the new job by her senior at her last job, who she has a crush on.
However, on the day of the interview, which strangely enough takes place on western New Year’s Eve, Shirley accidentally walks into the wrong office and ends up interviewing for a radio station on its last legs, Sunshine Radio. Sunshine Radio–which is unprofitable because the station manager refuses to resort to broadcasting ads for high-interest loans or aphrodisiacs–is on the verge of financial collapse.
Shirley is unexpectedly accepted as an assistant at the radio station right away, and finds herself contending with the strange crew of misfits who work at the radio station. Her interactions with her colleagues end up forcing her outside of her shell even as, for odd reasons, the radio station is being stalked by a religious cult because of a grudge that one of the station hosts has with the cult’s leader.
The plot elements of Radio! Ready Oh! are not too original. Stories about quirky underdogs struggling to make ends meet in a dying industry are a dime a dozen. So, too, are stories about introverts that are pushed outside of their usual boundaries after chance encounters.
However, the film manages to put a spin on usual tropes because of its skilled writing. For example, many of the screwball comedies in the same vein as Radio! Ready Oh! tend to have choppy pacing, and rush to resolve the plot elements at the end of the film. Quite often, this results in gaping plot holes, unresolved plot elements, but inconsistent characterization.
Radio! Ready Oh! manages to play with expectations by having the entire film set in the course of several hours before midnight. And it has a self-encompassed plot, with only a few digressions that detract from the movie.
Similarly, despite its rather large cast, Radio! Ready Oh! manages to amply develop its characters in a rather short time. This is done by pushing Shirley into interaction with all of the characters in short course, while finding ways to remove characters from the equation when necessary–such as having the station manager warn about a door that locks from the inside only to have him lock himself within immediately afterward, where he stays for the duration of the movie.
Much Taiwanese screwball comedy can be didactic–not trusting the audience to get the punchline, they continuously reiterate jokes. But, in that respect, Radio! Ready Oh! is mature enough to trust its audience; it allows jokes to build up over time.
While protagonist Shirley is not a particularly expressive character, the rest of the cast is able to carry the movie. Though they are all meant to be over-the-top characters, the acting is never dependent on simply physical comedy. Likewise, all of the characters are, in fact, able to convincingly play radio hosts who appear on air using different voices than their real voices. But Shirley’s characterization may be too dependent on tropes regarding withdrawn, introverted characters, inclusive of the awkward inclusion within the movie of a high school bully of hers, or her habit of throwing up when nervous.
Radio! Ready Oh!’s set design and coloring are well-done. If the movie suffers, it is because of the lacking soundtrack. On the other hand, the soundtrack in the film is only meant to accompany the action and is never the main point, but its quality is poor enough that it detracts.
Radio! Ready Oh! is not exactly a great work of cinema, but if you’re in search of a quick and simple comedy, it is a competent film, and a relatively strong example of its genre.
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Radio! Ready Oh! (Chinese: 陽光電臺不打烊)—Taiwan. Dialog in Mandarin Chinese. Directed by Hung Tzu-peng. First released 18 October 2020. Running time 1hr 35min. Starring Heaven Hai, Zach Lu.
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This article was first published in No Man Is An Island, an online publication focused on the connections between everyday life and politics. No Man Is An Island is brought to you by the team behind New Bloom Magazine.