Love on a Diet (瘦身男女)

love on a diet

There’s a warmth at the core of this movie about two large loners who find friendship and a suitable exercise plan. It capitalizes on the chemistry between Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng in Needing You (2000), also directed by Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai, and the two actors don’t miss a beat as a pair of hesitant companions who are a bit socially, emotionally, and culturally out of their depth.

Mini (Cheng) is more pitiable having eaten her way to the top of the scale during the absence of her classical musician boyfriend, Kurokawa (Rikiya Kurokawa). By the time he returns to Japan, she’s gotten so big that she can’t bring herself to see him and has taken to stalking him at his concerts. When she learns that he still holds a flame for her and wants to meet up at their special place, she renews her commitment to slim down. To do that, she enlists the help of another expat, Fatso (Lau), a knife seller on the long road to nowhere. He’s in no mood to have Mini leeching about, but despite his initial reservations, he agrees to help out his fellow Hong Konger.

It’s easy to guess where all that weight loss leads to; after all it’s in the title. Light romantic comedy is Cheng’s milieu, and she fills her character with the right amount of exuberance to keep the picture afloat while also giving Mini enough of a dejected air to lend the movie some emotional weight. Cheng loses points for some truly insufferable whining, however. On the whole, Lau comes off better, and he seems to act with greater freedom when he doesn’t have the burden of looking like Andy Lau. Buried beneath layers of rubber, he is a vulnerable soul who does his best to hide behind a sturdy exterior. Lau makes it easy to warm up to Fatso and see beyond the physical.

And the movie does sort of get at that idea that beauty comes from within. But the message gets muddled when most of the laughs depend on Mini’s efforts to, well, look like Sammi Cheng. Being big is apparently funny. Indeed, much of the novelty is in seeing Hong Kong’s two hottest stars bouncing around in fat suits. You’re supposed to laugh when Mini eats a tapeworm or collapses on gym equipment. She and Fatso look funny squeezing into a tiny car or stuffing their faces, though the humor in the latter come from the visibly fake rubber hands. You want the two to slim down, not so much to improve their health as to improve their chances at love. It’s too bad because Fatso and Mini are appealing characters, but ones we laugh at as much as we laugh with.

“Lifelong Beauty” (終身美麗) theme song by Sammi Cheng:

“My Fat Companion” (我的胖侶) by Andy Lau:

Released: 2001
Prod: Johnnie To 杜琪峰; Wai Ka-Fai 韋家輝; Tiffany Chen 陳明英
Dir: Johnnie To 杜琪峰; Wai Ka-Fai 韋家輝
Writer: Wai Ka-Fai 韋家輝; Yau Nai-Hoi 游乃海
Cast: Andy Lau 劉德華; Sammi Cheng 鄭秀文; Wong Tin-Lam 王天林; Lam Suet 林雪; Rikiya Kurokawa 黑川力矢; Keiji Sato 佐膝佳次; Asuka Higuchi 通口明日嘉
Time: 95 min
Lang: Cantonese, Japanese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014