Saturday, February 12, 2011

What Women Want (我知女人心 / Wo Zhi Nv Ren Xin)

What Do You Want, Really?

The release of films here is getting quite predictable in the first two months of the year, with releases primed for the Lunar New Year weekend with plots that are family friendly comedies, and everything else that's on the Golden Globes and Oscar list of nominees. In between there's the Valentine's Day programme with romantic comedies such as Just Go With It, No Strings Attached and also this remake of the Hollywood film starring Helen Hunt and Mel Gibson before he self-destructed his career. Before we proceed I thought you may want to know I've never watched the original, since I was never convinced Gibson could be a romantic lead, and as it turns out he's more action packed than lovey-dovey in his real life exploits too.

But back to this Pan-Chinese production, starring Singaporean Gong Li (I could say that, couldn't I?) and Malaysian PR Andy Lau as they take on the roles played by Hunt and Gibson respectively, where their characters Li Yi-Long and Sun Zi Gang are professional rivals in the advertising arena, who slowly find themselves drawn to each other romantically since they spend countless of hours in office in their dog eat dog profession. From their swanky office in Beijing to equally chic looking chill out watering holes - there's always the guzzling of wine in almost all their scenes together, talk about the affluence and a little bit of alcohol to withstand each other's nerves and charms - they find that they do actually click, but only because Zi Gang has a secret so powerful, I'm sure all men want to have that same ability, perhaps minus the need to be zapped by one point twenty one jigawatts.

Zi Gang is the atypical ladies man, a smooth talker who knows how to rub women the right way and into his bed. Being the high flying creative director in a female dominant office, he gets every attention every day and is thought to be primed for the executive role, only for his company to hire Yi-Long from a rival agency, because the market as it seems is seeing the rise in the power of the female dollar, and the company is of the opinion of having a female at the helm would boost their chances. Talk about being sexist here.

Things chug along and a freak accident while getting in touch with his feminine side (anima) gives Zi Gang the ability to listen in on the thoughts of all females, which while being thought of as a curse in the initial stages, becomes weaponized as a tool in the market place as he susses out opinions, ideas and especially strategies as cooked up by his rival Yi-Long. It's espionage at the highest and most subtle of levels, and the use of this power also extends to trying to improve ties with his rebellious teenage daughter, which is one of three subplots that unnecessarily bloats the plot and running time, the other two being the relationship between Zi Gang and his dad who irritates the bejesus out of everyone in the old folks home with his breakfast morning soprano singing, and a needless romance with a barista who's more eye candy than anything else.

The best part of the movie is of course the countless montage sequences set during Zi Gang's initial confusion as he navigates through countless of sexists (but are they accurate?) thoughts from the fairer sex, which provided for some light comedy contrasting against the very heavily rote romantic set pieces. But these moments are few and far between especially when the romantic angle starts to muscle its way in to the second half of the film, when the concept and premise start to wear thin. Some parts also don't make much sense, and a few stem from the business perspective, such as how nobody within the industry know how the hotshots or peer competitors look like, or how the financial difficulties of the firm you're joining is not well researched into and got blindsided, or even how the hiring and firing policies of the company don't make much HR sense either.

Andy Lau and Gong Li do share some chemistry as potential rivals and corporate competitors, though Lau looked visibly aged while I have to admit the latter looked more radiant in her role. There's nothing in the characters to challenge these two veteran performers, though you can take a sneak peek into their NG sequences when the end credits roll to give an idea which were some of the parts that they tripped up.

You can tell that writer-director Chen Daming relied heavily on the Hollywood sensibilities in crafting this film, right down to the predominant English songs in the soundtrack. But what got delivered was an average fare that didn't quite excite or ignited a sustainable interest in its overly long run time, and coupled with some really slipshod CG which will unfortunately distract (check out that "fish in the tank" when Zi Gang stands out in the pouring rain).

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