The Shopaholics (最愛女人購物狂)


It shouldn’t come as a surprise that The Shopaholics is the title of a Hong Kong movie. A little self-reflection never hurt anyone, and Chinese New Year is as good a time as any for a humorous satire on the city’s love of shopping. But just as one must deal with the consequences of blowing thousands on an LV bag, one must accept the pain and shame of squandering 90 minutes on this tedious, mind-numbing film, which offers very little in satire and even less in humor.

Fong Fong-Fong (Cecilia Cheung) is a familiar creature on the Hong Kong scene; she’s never seen a luxury item that she doesn’t love, the effect of being abandoned in a mall when she was a baby. This left her crippled by an obsessive shopping disease, and her flat looks like something out of a high class Hoarders episode. During one of her shopping sprees, she meets Dr. Choosey Lee (Lau Ching-Wan), who specializes in treating people with Fong-Fong’s disorder and who cruelly runs his practice from inside a mall. But while he’s trying to curb people’s spending habits, he suffers from a severe case of indecisiveness that turns even those most mundane situations into agonizing ordeals.

One side effect is his relationship with lovesick Ding Ding-Dong (Ella Koon), which was scuppered by the reappearance of two exes. Just as Fong-Fong and Choosey start to feel attracted to one another, Ding-Dong shows up and he again faces an impossible task. Does he want to be with an irresponsible spendthrift or a insecure cheapskate who also threatens to jump to her death every time she’s unhappy? The love triangle gets more crowded when Fong-Fong runs into bagillionaire Richie Ho (Jordan Chan). He is a kindred spirit with a bad habit of buying everything he doesn’t want. But his tightfisted father has also impressed on him the importance of saving, and Richie vacillates between these two personalities.

There are a few moments of social commentary that serve to explain this wackiness. Several characters assert that such debilitating illnesses are due to the high stress of living in Hong Kong. Besides these cases of ‘shopaholism’ and ‘decidophobia’, they also suffer from gambling, narcolepsy, and unrestrained cursing. The characters are so nutty though that they don’t resemble anyone you would know in real life. They spend most of their time doing crazy things that emphasize their social quirk, even as they collectively attempt to heal themselves. What they really need is a less stressful environment – relaxed working hours, a patched up social safety net, fewer shopping malls.

Instead, the movie suggests that love and marriage will do the trick. That’s a fine message for a Chinese New Year film, but the final scene is really an extended, humorless descent into silliness. Fong-Fong, Choosey, Ding-Dong, and Richie have decided to marry but cannot decide how to partner up. Dr. Phoenix Luk (Paula Tsui), a psychiatrist and queen shopaholic, takes control and sends the four wedding parties running around the city and switching places to try and suss out who likes whom. The characters quickly find out it’s not all fun and games, nor is it enjoyable for the audience. The rapid fire chase is not amusing or clever but exhausting, never mind that the women are being played as pawns. That’s no matter; as long as Hong Kongers are a little batty, someone’s going to laugh about it.

Released: 2006
Prod: Wai Ka-Fai 韋家輝; Yang Ying 楊英
Dir: Wai Ka-Fai 韋家輝
Writer: Wai Ka-Fai 韋家輝; Au Kin-Yee 歐健兒
Cast: Cecilia Cheung 張柏芝; Lau Ching-Wan 劉青雲; Jordan Chan 陳小春; Ella Koon 官恩娜; Paula Tsui 徐小鳳; Law Kar-Ying 羅家英; Ha Chun-Chau 夏春秋; Wong Tin-Lam 王天林; Maggie Siu 邵美琪; Stephanie Che 車婉婉; Amy Kwok 郭藹明
Time: 93 min
Lang: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014