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Saturday, June 30, 2007

Hooked On You 每当变幻事

HOOKED ON YOU is the second Milkyway Image production I saw in two weeks (the first one was the entertaining EYE IN THE SKY). This Miriam Yeung - Eason Chan starrer is produced by Johnnie To and directed by Lau Wing-Cheong (who did the surprisingly good 2 BECOME 1 last year,the one about Miriam Yeung with breast cancer), the poster made the film look like a generic romantic comedy. But having seen the trailer before few weeks ago, I knew the film would be larger in scope, and definitely more serious.

This romantic drama is set in a span of ten years. From 1997 (the handover) to 2007. The story revolves around Miu (Miriam Yeung), who has to work as a fishmonger to pay off her father's debts. Her father's debts aren't the only thing she has to worry about, there's also this pesky rival fishmonger in the market (Eason Chan) whom she bickers constantly with. Of course, predictably, a friendship blossoms between the once-bitter rivals, and possibly leading into something more. But Miu feels that being with another fishmonger (or anyone working in the market) is beneath her, her interest being more in one's financial status and society rank. Will she put all these aside and end up living happily ever after with 'Yu Lo' (literally 'fish man'), who is so obviously the one for her?

Sounds like a generic rom-com, eh? Well, you'll be surprised by the results.

If it isn't obvious by now, this film is to reflect the ten years Hong Kong society has fared since the handover in 1997. And this film is probably more relevant for Hong Kong audiences than us, and its messages and themes will sail over the head of anyone who doesn't know anything about the changes HK has undergone since the handover.

The market Miu works at represents Hong Kong. Although there were claims that it will remain 'unchanged' right after the handover, the changes would be unexpected, inevitable and drastic. The vendors at the market had made a similar pledge, claiming that the market would remain 'unchanged' for fifty years, making them unprepared for what is to come. Throughout the film, Miu will attempt to keep up with globalization, gets involved in get-rich-quick pyramid schemes in preparation for the feared Millennium Bug, attempts to cut of own ties to embrace a new life, going through SARS and a few others. She represents an ever-changing and ever-adapting post-handover HKer. Eason's character, on the contrary, thrives in stability, happy to stick with his job, preferring a stable income, and helping those who needs help, perhaps he represents an older generation of HKers.

It's my fascination with this that kept me interested throughout the film, which is very well-acted (especially the two leads) and well-produced. Although I think many will be displeased by the unexpected ending, which, even to me, felt like a slap in the face. And no, this ain't a Korean melodrama, so neither of the characters is suddenly diagnosed with terminal illness.

Perhaps at first, the scope of the film reminded me a little bit of the wondrous Hong Kong classic film, COMRADES, ALMOST A LOVE STORY (1996) starring Leon Lai and Maggie Cheung. After all, HOOKED ON YOU is also a love story that takes place in a span of 10 years, with the main characters going through this on-again-off-again agonizing relationship, while drawing from the culture and history of Hong Kong. (COMRADES takes place in 1985 to 1995) But no, this film isn't really as good as COMRADES, more modest, less depth, film is so obviously a political metaphor that it occasionally overwhelms the sometimes affecting love story between Miu and Fish Man.

Still a decent movie though. Just that it might have gotten a bit too ambitious, and never reaching the heights I expected it to reach. Would love to hear what others have to say about this if anyone would still bother to go for HK films nowadays.

(Interesting. I review this film on the 30th of June, 2007. Posting this review a day later would've coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Hong Kong handover.)