The Diary of a Big Man

Having first gotten to know Chow Yun Fat through his Heroic Bloodshed roles – The Killer, Hard Boiled, A Better Tomorrow – it is always a bit of a culture shock to watch him perform in some of his comedic roles. In these roles Chow is as far away from those heroically stoic characters as one can possibly imagine. In these screwball comedies Chow is just totally over the top in a very silly and very frenetic and very funny way.

And mind you, his characters and the comedies are not stylishly sophisticated in a Cary Grant sort of way.  Chow mugs, minces, sings or does just about anything to make the audience laugh. What’s also interesting is that Chow was doing these comedies at the same time that he was creating his now more renowned action classics. He made a real effort to alternate between action, comedy and romance roles and he was popular with the audiences in all of these genres.

This film is an exercise in complete lunacy – a 90-minute bedroom farce that somehow never runs out of steam and just gets sillier as the film progresses. Chow is very funny as a man who thinks he can control a situation that is totally uncontrollable and all of his actions only make things worse.

One rainy night he meets two women – Joey Wong and Sally Yeh – in separate incidents, gets their phone numbers, dates them and then  . . . well – marries them both! Not that he really wanted to, but he is too nice a guy to hurt either of them. This may seem like a complicated situation – but Chow thinks he has it all figured out (and being married to both Joey Wong and Sally Yeh might be worth a little extra effort!). Sally is an airline hostess – and is out of town for part of each week – so he spends those days with Joey – and when Sally is in town he tells Joey that the stock market is crashing and that he can’t come home! Never shall the twain meet. Uh huh!
Of course in this kind of comedy, gravitational forces start constantly bringing the women together and this is when the insanity begins. Scenes of Chow first doing everything he can to keep the women from meeting (in the elevator and even in bed!) and then when this doesn’t work trying to keep them from realizing that he is married to both of them are very funny, clever and wonderfully choreographed. Many of his lies involve his good friend Waise Lee and his fiancée Carrie Ng – and he turns their lives as upside down as his own.
There are many moments of nuttiness – the oddest when in the middle of a scene a music video suddenly pops up with Chow, Sally and Joey all singing and dancing through the streets of HK, as Mariachi musicians and in formal wear. It made absolutely no sense in context to the film – but it was so charming that who could care.
Everyone in this is terrific – Chow is perfectly madcap and yet still irresistible and Sally and Joey play the perfect straight women to him. A year later of course Chow and Sally were to make film history as the lovers in The Killer and Joey had her first big hit the year before – A Chinese Ghost Story – but this film (produced by Tsui Hark) must have been a very fun stop along the way for all involved.

My rating for this film: 7.5