Friday, December 05, 2008

All About Women (女人不坏 / Neui Yan Fau Pui)

I'm Bad

It must have been crazy to brand this as Asia's answer to the wildly popular Sex and the City, because for all the star power in its female cast, whom besides Zhou Xun, I thought the rest had hung to the coattails of their more popular co-stars such as Stephen Chow and Jay Chou in order to give their cinematic career some needed boost. And what must Tsui Hark be thinking if he reckoned that he could get in touch with his inner feminine self to bring to an audience something about the modern women's psyche on relationships?

There's nothing fun nor sassy in the characters and the storyline here, and at best, it's a forgettable piece of drama that felt like a typical scatterbrain trying to figure everything, but getting down to achieving nothing. The film was schizophrenic on a lot of fronts, having bitten more than it can chew, and then couldn't decide if it preferred to spit or swallow (pardon the sexual connotations, which the movie is devoid of anyway). While some would have written off Tsui Hark as a has-been, I thought I still wanted to give him a chance even after the rather dismal Missing, and while one can applaud his bravery at attempting something fresh, you're likely to find yourself questioning just what has gotten into him, and whether he has totally lost the plot.

You can reminisce his glorious filmography past, but I think those days aren't going to come back anytime soon. There's absolutely nothing to like about this movie, and everything felt rather artificial with little heart. The last straw of course came when a scene toward the end was a blatant copy of The Bachelor, except that the roles were reversed. I felt that was a new low with Hark finding the need to parody others, highlighting a serious lack of ideas.

Zhou Xun plays Ou Fan Fan, aged 27 (yes it matters enough to be highlighted in the movie), who with her thick glasses, transforms herself from usual glamour puss to ultimate geek with Calamity Jane tendencies. Her inexplicable nervousness when touched by men, makes her all frigid, and Hark decides to make this condition very slapstick ridiculous. Yearning for a man long gone, and with her inability to attract new ones, she goes on a research experiment to design pheromone patches that can chemically induce the right man to be drawn toward her. Think of it as an airborne Love Potion No 9.

Kitty Zhang plays glamour puss Tang Lu, 31, who oozes so much sexuality, that men cower in her presence, and worship even her fart (OK, so I made the last point up, but you get the drift). Having no friends as she inevitably makes their boyfriends/husbands/fiances ditch them for her, she's the alpha-feminist and succesful career woman who's out to prove that she has more talent than the size of her boobs (OK, so I made it up again just to spice up an incredibly boring story). The perennial case of looks not an issue in the corporate world, though she has some really dogged tenacity in fishing out for profit making deals, such as Fan Fan's patches, setting them on a collision course as she blackmails the latter into a contract.

And to round up the trio of female lead characters, Kwai Lun Mei stars as a 19 year old internet novelist cum amateur boxer cum indie band lead vocalist wannabe, who has an imaginary Japanese boyfriend to boot. I suppose this is an unorthodox a character as you can get, and of the three, she probably has the least screen time given the distinct lack of know how on what to do with this character, given her hands in so many pies.

The trio share limited scenes together, and for the most parts felt like having three different short films glued together as one. Supporting characters such as the rocker played by Stephen Fung provide that degree of separation between the leading ladies, otherwise they only come together at a hospital scene toward the end, and had a lot more to do at a restaurant and a music festival. Between all the three ladies, only Zhou Xun's character undergo some sort of internal and physical transformation thanks to her experiments in getting her out of her shell, and Zhou Xun's performance, which the other two look more like caricatures, especially Kitty Zhang's, though in a way much better than being a flower vase like in CJ7.

There isn't much to shout out about the movie, and given its run time of close to two hours, there are numerous moments where it actually could have been trimmed to save the audience from the unintended torture of watching how some supposedly female characters lead their contemporary love lives, but with a man, and Tsui Hark at that, at the helm that well, it becomes a misfire with nothing to show.

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