JJ Jia

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (單身男女)

dont go breaking my heart

 

Don’t Go Breaking My Heart posits the essential question: would you rather choose a rascally Louis Koo or an idealized Daniel Wu? The answer takes a while to arrive at, and if you don’t mind waiting a few years (that’s movie years) to figure out the answer, you might enjoy this one. Then again, you might find such an extended romance plodding.

After an unexpected run-in with her ex-boyfriend and his pregnant wife, a distressed Zixin (Gao Yuanyuan) nearly becomes roadkill. Luckily Qihong (Wu), a frustrated architect in the guise of an unkempt vagabond, stops downing his bottle of Jack long enough to sweep in and rescue her. She also catches the eye of Shen-Ran, who works in the building across from hers and, if we are honest, is kind of a stalker. When he notices her feeling down, he tries to cheer her up with post-it art on his window.

It’s a cute little plot device that will make the romantics sigh, but it causes a good deal of drama. Shen-Ran finally arranges a face-to-face meeting with Zixin but accidentally attracts a busty worker in the office below. Rather than excuse himself, he makes the first of many mistakes that leave Zixin wondering whether he’s worth it.

If this was real life, the problem would sort itself out. Now that Qihong has a new muse, he rededicates himself to designing award winning skyscrapers, and decides to shower and shave. He ends up being the perfect antidote for Shen-Ran’s sometimes childish and unfaithful behavior, and Zixin understandably begins to fall for him as well. Except Shen-Ran is still very much in her life. Girl’s in a pickle.

The unhurried pace at which the romance unfolds ends up being one of the strengths of the movie. The characters don’t feel pushed into a single trajectory but have room to occasionally pause and observe their relationships from the sidelines. When Zixin wants to step back from a suitor, it feels natural, just as it does when she thinks about rekindling her affair.

This should make the characters, or at least their actions, seem closer to reality, but they end up feeling less intimate despite the strong screen presence of all three actors. Gao is a sweet lead, and Koo and Wu likewise play to their strengths as the suave and gentle leading man, respectively. But the characters are never fully realized. Shen-Ran has a way with post-its, candles, and magic tricks, but I never really understood why Zixin loved him so much, especially with Qihong at her side. Was it because he was perfect almost to the point of dullness?

The skin-deep characterization in some ways matches the glamorous, cosmopolitan sheen of the film, made more for Mainland tastes than for Hong Kong. There’s nary a street shot without a label, and directors Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai seem to have gone with the rule that there’s no such thing as too much product placement. It’s a shame that brands and logos end up substituting for Hong Kong’s urban beauty, otherwise captured vibrantly and with crystal clarity by To and Wai.

Trailer featuring “Love is Very Simple” (愛很簡單) by David Tao:

Released: 2011
Prod: Johnnie To 杜琪峰; Wai Ka-Fai 韋家輝
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; Ray Chan 陳偉斌; Jevons Au 歐文傑
Cast: Louis Koo 古天樂; Daniel Wu 吳彥祖; Gao Yuanyuan 高圓圓; Lam Suet 林雪; Larisa 瑞莎; JJ Jia 賈曉晨; Terence Yin 尹子維; Selena Li 李詩韻; Iva Law 羅泳嫻
Time: 114 min
Lang: Cantonese, Mandarin, some English
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014

I Love Hong Kong (我愛HK開心萬歲)

i love hk

I Love Hong Kong lives up to its title, showing great holiday affection for the city and the salt of the earth folks who live there. A respectable follow-up to the previous Chinese New Year’s hit 72 Tenants of Prosperity, this movie delivers a warmhearted message about community that comes wrapped in layers of laughter, nostalgia, and product placement. This TVB production is also top heavy with local television actors, but the station opts for true screen stars Tony Leung Ka-Fai and Sandra Ng to generate a hefty festive buzz.

Leung and Ng play parents to Ming (Aarif Lee), Chi (Mag Lam), and King (Chan Wing-Lam), and life is all fun and games until hard economic times brings big changes to their lives. Shun, a toy manufacturer, finds his factory shut down, so he decides to move the family back to the public housing estate where his father (Stanley Fung) still lives. But this ends up literally cramping everyone’s style.

Though Shun praises the virtues of being close to extended family and having trustworthy estate friends nearby, no one cares for this arrangement. Shun’s Wife (she doesn’t have a name but is simply known as ‘Shun’s wife’) escapes by returning to work at a beauty clinic, only to find herself demoted and taking orders from a haughty and much younger, taller, slimmer superior (Koni Lui). His son, a cog in the Food and Health Department machine, objects to living next to the stall owners he’s tasked with reprimanding, and even Shun’s father prefers having his flat to himself, where he has space enough for two TVs – a bigger one for TVB and a smaller one for that other station.

It’s Shun’s turn to feel upset though when his former friend Lung (Eric Tsang) reappears. He still holds a grudge from their youth after some funds went missing and wonders if Lung is just here to pull another scam or if he really wants to help out the struggling tenants. The power of flashback not only fleshes out their relationship and helps the audience appreciate the values of council estate living, it also gives a boatload of fresh faced TVB actors a chance to play younger versions of the characters (Bosco Wong as Shun, Wong Cho-Lam as Lung, Kate Tsui and Joyce Cheng as the bread store twins).

The gimmick aids plot development but also strengthens the message of Hong Kongers coming together to fight off the wealthy and corrupt, something we apparently did better thirty years ago. By the time the movie reaches its forced climax, you’ll be cheering on the small potatoes of this idyllic housing estate as they take on officials and developers who threaten their community and simple way of life. Hell, you might even want to live in a housing estate after you see their polished quarters. Zany side plots made funnier with a knowledge of Cantonese and Hong Kong gossip top off this stocking stuffer of a film, but the overall effort works regardless. It’s one you won’t mind revisiting next Chinese New Year’s.

“Always Friends” (始終都係朋友好) performed by the cast:

“I Love Hong Kong” performed by Aarif Lee and Mag Lam. Video not available but inspired by “Kowloon, Hong Kong” by the Reynettes:

Released: 2011
Prod: Eric Tsang 曾志偉; Jason Siu 邵劍秋
Dir: Chung Shu-Kai 鍾澍佳; Eric Tsang 曾志偉
Writer: Chung Shu-Kai 鍾澍佳; Helward Mak 麥曦茵; Wong Yeung-Tat 黃洋達
Cast: Eric Tsang 曾志偉; Tony Leung Ka-Fai 梁家輝; Sandra Ng 吳君如; Aarif Lee 李治廷; Mag Lam 林欣彤; Chan Wing-Lam 陳穎嵐; Stanley Fung 馮淬帆; Anita Yuen 袁詠儀; Fala Chen 陳法拉; Wu Ma 午馬; Wong Cho-Lam 王祖藍; Bosco Wong 黃宗澤; Jess Shum 沈卓盈; Liu Kai-Chi 廖啟智; Wayne Lai 黎耀祥; Maggie Cheung Ho-Yee 張可頤; Alfred Cheung 張堅庭; Louis Yuen 阮兆祥; Michelle Lo 盧覓雪; Kate Tsui 徐子珊 Joyce Cheng 鄭欣宜; JJ Jia 賈曉晨; Koni Lui 呂慧儀; Jeannette Leung 梁政玨; Siu Yam-Yam 邵音音; Evergreen Mak 麥長青; 6 Wing 陸永; Tenky Tin 田啟文; Lam Suet 林雪; Raymond Wong 黃浩然; Otto Wong 王志安; Eddie Pang 彭懷安; Jim Chim 詹瑞文; Samantha Ko 高海寧; Felix Wong 黃日華; Michael Miu 苗僑偉; Mak Ling-Ling 麥玲玲; Pierre Ngo 敖嘉年; Christine Kuo 苟芸慧; Terence Tsui 小肥; Hui Siu-Hung 許紹雄; and a LOT more
Time: 104 min
Lang: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014