Rose

Maggie Cheung gives one of her most complex and interesting performances here – but unfortunately in a film that is eventually not very compelling or believable. There are scenes and moments and snapshots that are absolutely terrific and heartfelt, but overall much of it simply does not hang together. Though the film covers a lot of ground – and is in fact too unfocused at times – at the core of the film lies a love story. But it is the love story that never clicks for me – I never believe in it and never really care about its outcome.
Maggie is an insurance salesperson – and a very good one as she has an ability to find the chink in anyone’s emotional armor – whether it be their ego or their children. She leaves her upscale boyfriend when he proposes marriage – and assumes that she will give up her career and become a housewife. She seems to have no real need for men though and later at one point she is told that she should give up smoking and she replies – “A cigarette is more reliable than a man.  I can feel it in my hand. I can smell it. When I am lonely it will dance with me”. It sounds corny – but Maggie manages to give the scene an emotional charge and depth.
While making a sales pitch one afternoon, a triad gang leader – Roy Cheung – comes over and advises Maggie not to make the sale because her potential client may soon be dead and the company will have to pay out. In a fury Maggie demands compensation for her lost sale and Roy tells her he will buy a policy instead and makes her the beneficiary. It appears that she may quickly collect as he is jumped by some other triads and badly wounded.
This is where the film starts stretching our believability a bit. He stumbles into her get away cab but she wants nothing to do with him. The driver though says Maggie has to take him with her or she will be implicated in his death. Maggie buys this, takes him to her apartment and then instead of calling the police or the hospital  (due to her fear of being accused of stabbing him!) she calls her ex-boyfriend to stitch him up. He wants to call the cops – but she tells him that she will accuse him of trying to rape her and then stabbing her lover. He believes her. Would two seemingly intelligent people act this way?

Later Maggie gets ill and Roy goes all mushy and sensitive by nursing her back to health and cooking pork chops and rice for her. This goes on for days – and all I could think of was – is this new triad of the 90s –the caring triad – sort of like the new compassionate Republicans. And isn’t there triad business Roy should be attending to rather than doting on a very ungrateful Maggie Cheung? Needless to say love blooms like a red red rose – but I never believe it – even with both actors giving excellent performances. Maggie absolutely covers the gambit of emotions in this film – and she is just very real at portraying all of them.

In a small role – that actually serves little purpose in the film – Veronica Yip is also terrific. She plays a friend of Maggies who has a weakness for drink and bad relationships. Maggie says to her – “You are like a turbo engine – one touch and you are ready to go”. At one point in the film – she is in a bar – drinking too much – flirting unsuccessfully with Michael Wong (in a cameo) – and she goes by the piano player and sings a torch song that defines sexual yearning and loneliness. It is a great little scene and I wish that she had been in the film to a greater extent.
I just found myself having no patience for a love story that felt very contrived – but very much enjoyed the individual performances from Maggie, Roy and Veronica.