Well, at least it doesn't all take place in one day ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Well, at least it doesn't all take place in one day

Hot Summer Days
My rating:

TMBF is a film critic, and had thought of reviewing 72 Tenants of Prosperity - because it's the undisputed box-office champion of the CNY period, which perhaps warrants checking out what all the fuss is about. But TMBF is also a red-blooded heterosexual male, and therefore chose instead to watch Hot Summer Days - because daaaaamn, Barbie Hsu, Vivian Hsu and Michelle Wai. Does that make me a perv? Very well then, I am pervy. I am large, I contain perviness.

But I'm not quite so pervy as to actually find this movie good.

In the midst of a heat wave stretching from Hong Kong to Beijing, ten people find love. A single father (Jacky Cheung) has a long-distance SMS flirtation with a piano player-turned-masseuse (Rene Liu). A foodie writer (Vivian Hsu) attempts to rekindle her romance with a sushi chef (Daniel Wu). An aircond repairman (Nicholas Tse) pursues a mysterious biker chick (Barbie Hsu), whilst his estranged father (Gordon Liu) sells beach umbrellas and misses his late wife. An arrogant photographer (Duan Yihong) loses his eyesight, and enlists the aid of his assistant (Fu Xinbo) to track down the model (Michelle Wai) whom he believes "cursed" him. And finally, a village lad (Jing Boran) attempts to win the heart of a factory girl (Angelababy) by standing outside her window for 100 days.

Not a week after one ensemble romantic comedy with multiple criss-crossing-but-otherwise-unrelated storylines, we get another. And it's no better than Valentine's Day, but in different ways. It's even more poorly-written and ill-conceived, with patently unrealistic situations and gaping holes in its storytelling logic. This is a live-action movie, ostensibly aimed at adults, that features two talking cartoon fish as side characters. Later on, a late-night bike ride is depicted as an animated warp drive trail streaking through the Hong Kong highways. The former may have been (an attempt at being) cute, but the latter is just WTF. And the heat wave thing means everyone sweats a lot, making you wish these people would just take a shower already. It's easy to blame all this on first-time co-directors Wing Shya and Tony Chan and co-writer Lucretia Ho - but the film has its moments, and its moments have more emotional impact than anything in Valentine's Day.

But one thing at a time. The Vivian Hsu-Daniel Wu story is annoyingly obtuse; there's clearly a history between these two people, but Chan and Ho just weren't bothered enough to flesh it out. There are glimmers of genuine pathos in Hsu's performance, and she's terrifically expressive with her eyes - even when the script has her doing annoyingly cutesy things like stick post-its on her window in the shape of a heart. (Or maybe I'm just perving over her. Could be.) The Barbie Hsu-Nicholas Tse story is equally dumb. Their "meet cute" is contrived as hell, and so is Hsu's character - a serial do-gooder who fulfills dying people's last wishes. And wait'll you get a load of why she actually does this. It's a good thing that Hsu is great here; she's probably the most well-developed female character in this movie - relatively speaking - and she does it justice. (Am I perving again? Okay, Tse is pretty good too. Really.)

The Jing Boran-Angelababy story is just kinda there; I've read reviews that say this is the best of the film's segments, but I'm not seeing it. And I'm not seeing what's so great about Angelababy's performance either. But the dullest segment is the photographer one. It's not even a love story, and Michelle Wai is hardly even in it, which is particularly annoying since she's one-third of why I wanted to watch this in the first place. (Okay, that might've been a little pervy.) The Jacky Cheung-Rene Liu story is the one that works best, for being the one most grounded in reality - relatively speaking. Although Liu wasn't one of the three hawt hoochie mamas actresses I wanted to perv watch in this, she turns out to be the most appealing character; she's sweet, perky, optimistic, and a lot of fun to watch.

Gordon Liu's bit is another one that seems out of place, but he does have one good scene, an argument with his son Tse - and that finally brings us to the things the movie does right, one of which is to have shamelessly manipulative, tear-jerking big dramatic scenes. What can I say, it worked on me. Valentine's Day, with all its facile saccharine-sweetness, could've used some of this. And its ensemble is mostly working-class people trying to make ends meet, who are far more relatable than Valentine's Day's cast of whitebread bourgeoisie. Also, watch out for some surprise celebrity cameos - one of them is a truly pleasant surprise for fans of Hong Kong cinema.

But a few effective scenes can't redeem this film. Look at that poster up there. Why is Angelababy looking so glam, when her character is a simple village girl? And why is Daniel Wu not even sporting the mustache that his character has? Because this movie isn't really a movie, in the sense that it has a story to tell - it's a star-power delivery system, as cynical and commercial as Valentine's Day. That's why I referred to them by their actors' names instead of the characters' like I usually do. And star power alone doesn't make a good movie to me - not even if it comes in the lovely forms of Barbie Hsu, Vivian Hsu and Michelle Wai. (Yup. Definitely pervy.)

NEXT REVIEW: Niyang Rapik
Expectations: Ahmad Idham boo, Liyana Jasmay yay, gross-out horror yikes!