Sex and the Beauties

How could a film starring Carina Lau, Yoyo Mung, Athena Chu, Cecilia Cheung and Pinky Cheung be so overwhelmingly dull? It is like watching potted plants grow for ninety minutes. Not that these actresses are potted plants, far from it but they are surrounded by a mulch like story that could bury anyone. This is the type of film that you periodically check between your toes to see if moss is forming. It’s hard to believe that this is a Wong Jing film. Whatever happened to his sense of being outrageous and politically incorrect? Sure his films could be tasteless, idiotic and nonsensical, but they rarely suffered from yuppie narcolepsy and would almost always have a few moments that were so sublimely silly that you had to laugh in spite of yourself.
This unfortunately feels like a recent intentional phase in Wong’s career as he has cleaned up his act as of late with fare like “Prince Charming”, “Everyday is Valentine” and “Love Me, Love My Money”. Considering that he has always been able to keep his finger on the pulse of Hong Kong movier-goers, one has to presume that he has sensed a sea change in the taste of audiences – perhaps due to Hong Kong film-going being driven more and more by young women who drag their boyfriends with them. There must have been a few testy arguments and tears after sitting through this one!
“Sex and the City” supposedly inspired this film, but Wong takes that American TV show and waters it down to an unappealing sodden mess. Does that make any sense at all? Did he feel that “Sex and the City” was too racy for local audiences? Considering the source of the inspiration and the potential to have some fun with the subject of four single women looking for love and sex this is astonishingly bland, un-insightful and not in the least bit amusing. He had seven years of material to steal dialogue and plot points from and this was the best he could come up with? Was he too cheap to buy the DVDs? Admittedly, I think I have only seen one show in its lengthy run, but it was the one in which the female foursome sat in the back of a cab and talked rather graphically about men and their “eating” habits. I was sure hoping for a similar conversation between Carina, Athena and especially Pinky – somehow I think Pinky would have had a smile on her as big as an all you can eat buffet. Oddly, though this film certainly is filled to the gills with the "beauty" in the title, it completely shies away from the "sex" like a young monk in training.
Carina is a psychiatrist who gives her boyfriend the boot about one minute into the film – she goes through relationships like Bush goes through rationales to have invaded Iraq (last week's - "we wanted to bring prison reform to Iraq" and today's "I didn't much like his moustache"). She is looking for that one true love unlike her mother Cheng Pei-pei who is on the verge of her seventh marriage. Her friends – Athena, Pinky and Yoyo – are also having their problems finding love. Athena – who looks delicious in this film – she just looks better and better – is a best selling erotic novelist – but unfortunately none of it is based on her own personal experiences as she is still apparently a virgin. Pinky is a tough gal who has plenty of sexual attitude but for reasons unexplained attracts no men – are males in Hong Kong afraid of a sexual challenge. Sweet curly haired Yoyo only wants a man who is willing to put his life at risk – not by dating with her – but by mountain climbing and hang gliding and such – a hard to find commodity anywhere.
Wong also throws in a totally unrelated sub-plot that had no particular point to it other than getting Cecilia into the film – usually never a bad thing – but here she is used so poorly that it just makes you feel sorry for her. Carina runs into an old beau of hers (Kenny Bee) who asks her to look after his wild child and she agrees. This is Cecilia - who again for reasons that make little sense – is portrayed as this incredibly ugly duckling with bad skin, gray teeth and an eyebrow that is as long as the Great Wall. At some point in the proceedings she thankfully turns into her usual beautiful slender swan.
Soon the girls find men in their lives as one expects in a so-called romantic comedy. Carina takes on Tony Leung Ka-fai as a patient – and instead of stealing from “Sex and the City”, Wong borrows from “Analyze This” as Tony is a triad boss who is feeling the pressure of his job and comes to his sessions in order to cry. Athena find herself attracted to both a much younger man (Edison Chen) and an older man (Hui Siu Hung) and should have immediately checked herself into the Betty Ford Clinic for electro-shock therapy. Cecilia and Andy Hui start making googly eyes at one another. Andy must be the only actor in Hong Kong who can make Leon Lai look charismatic by comparison – somebody check to see if he is breathing please. Yoyo gets her few minutes in as well with a fellow, but no one seems interested in poor Pinky – why am I never in the right place at the right time. None of these romances have any zip whatsoever and rarely have I come across more tedious males than these guys – no wonder there are so many single women in Hong Kong.
Nevertheless I made it all the way through this film for the obvious reasons – the women look great. Carina never seems to age and its only a shame that she is stuck in such a limp film, but at least I give Wong credit for picking some of the older actresses and not just the flavors of the day. Both Athena and Pinky are a delight to just watch their facial expressions. If only there was a better script with some real smarts and wit, this could have been a pleasure instead of a minor chore.

My rating for this film: 4.5