Fighting for Love (同居蜜友)

fighting for love

These are two emotionally stunted would-be lovers in Joe Ma’s Fighting for Love. Tung Choi (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) and Deborah (Sammi Cheng) bark, claw, and kick at anyone who stands in their way, and they even have a go at each other in the first few minutes. Their mutual disregard for the rules of the road ends in a 999 call, and it’s not the last time they meet.

Of the two, Deborah is more churlish, the coworker who turns the room to ice the second she steps in. Spitting abuse left and right, she leaves a wake of shattered self-confidence as she strides into her office. Deborah’s home life doesn’t fare much better. Her older sister tolerates her while her dad, with whom she lives, only speaks to her when he wants her to walk the dog.

Tung Choi has a warmer relationship with his family, by which I mean they often engage in heated arguments that involve screaming and throwing things. They have the brassy edge of the nouveau riche; not only do they own a successful chain of tripe restaurants (where they serve “2000 bowls of cooked bull organs a day”) but their father also won the lottery, twice. Tung Choi’s harpy family might explain why he’s also pretty insufferable. Though his insults are not as calculated, he can be surly and snappy on a turn.

In short, the two perfect for each other. But rather than teasing out their combative flirtation, the movie takes a poorly planned shortcut. Deborah’s determination to get compensated for the fender bender leads to an early confrontation in a karaoke room. The tension is quickly defused when Tung Choi shows up drunk, and before you know it, they’re snuggling and smoking in bed.

Their one night fling isn’t surprising, but Deborah’s inexplicably sweet demeanor afterwards is. She’s suddenly calling her former foe and teasing three certain words out of him. Tung Choi, also a little confused as to whether she’s in earnest, plays it off but finds himself falling for Deborah’s frankness and fortitude. That makes more sense because she’s a contrast to his manipulative television personality girlfriend, Mindy (Niki Chow), who gradually proves herself to be more of a pill than her rival.

Cheng is incredible to watch and harnesses the power of playing against type. Even as the script pulls her in several directions, Deborah comes off as a real and understandable character. She may not be entirely likable by film’s end, but she doesn’t make excuses and she takes advantage of chances to redeem herself. Tung Choi runs into her after she’s gotten fired and kicked out of the house and ends up sleeping on a hospital room floor. Cheng is full of pathetic bluntness as Deborah explains what’s happened, her face filled with recognition of her own failings rather than with self-pity.

Even with a similarly nuanced performance by Leung, however, this movie never finds its groove. It echoes of a talky, comedy-drama independent. The film is fronted by two people who don’t really know how to have relationships but are prepared to acknowledge that and try anyway. It’s a sometimes clever and funny script that aims for realism of life and love, but ultimately, it can’t overcome its lack of narrative discipline and ends up being a disjointed star vehicle.

“Doctors and Me” (醫生與我) – theme song by Sammi Cheng:

“That Day, Were You Happy” (那天你愉快嗎) by Sammi Cheng:

“Keeping Watch Over Our Love” (守望相愛) by Sammi Cheng

Released: 2001
Prod: Cheung Shing-Sheung 張承勷
Dir: Joe Ma 馬偉豪
Writer: Taures Chow 周燕嫻; Joe Ma 馬偉豪; Aubrey Lam 林愛華
Cast: Tony Leung Chiu-Wai 梁朝偉; Sammi Cheng 鄭秀文; Niki Chow 周麗琪; Joe Lee 李耀明; Ha Ping 夏萍; Lee Fung 李楓; Sammy Leung 森美; Chan Man-Lei 陳萬雷; Winston Yeh 葉景文; Hyper BB 茜利妹
Time: 97 min
Lang: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014

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