Itchy Heart


Hong Kong throws out another romantic comedy that bounces off your head with the impact of a squishy marshmallow. As in so many of the glut of these kinds of films, it’s soft, gooey, mildly edible and completely forgettable. It passes through your consciousness with the speed of a Stephen Chow monologue – one vaguely recalls having spent the past ninety minutes watching a movie but it soon becomes a foggy blur like an Alzheimer patient trying to remember George Bush’s latest lie. These are such generic cookie cutter productions that they should not even have titles beyond “Romantic Comedy No. 245” – they have no bite and no wit and rely almost entirely on the charms of their cast who try and elicit some laughs and emotions out of a script that should be planted in a cemetery of John Does.
And Itchy Heart has a solid cast – the reliable Lau Ching-wan tirelessly beats the bushes in hopes of finding some humor lying in the weeds - even willing to do a hokey imitation of John Travolta in Grease – Carina Lau simply looks bored, pained and in hopes of receiving a call from Wong Kar-wai to do a sequel to “Days of Being Wild” in which we find out what the heck ever happened to her in the Philippines anyway and the adorable and fresh faced Cherry Ying looks – well . . . adorable and fresh faced like a warm muffin smeared in melting butter. It is not that Itchy Heart is such a bad film – there have been many worse of late (and usually starring Miriam Yeung), but its lack of ambition and its willingness to be blandly genial is gnawing on my soul like a New York City rat. And while I am whining away here in imitation of a schoolgirl who didn’t get her weekly allowance – let’s get this out of my craw like a rancid after dinner taste – please don’t allow Andy Ong to act in a comedy or drama ever again – seeing him attempt to act was only slightly less painful than having my body attacked by a mob of bargain basement shoppers looking for red tags in my pockets and other a sundry places. “Looking for Mr. Perfect” showed that Ong has some terrific physical moves, but his face shares none of this talent – it is as immovable as an ancient oil stain and he dons a gaseous scowl throughout. Let’s start another petition on the Internet.
Lau Ching-wan has an itch – it is a seven year one and desperately needs scratching but clearly not from his very attractive wife (Coco Chiang-yi) who no longer seems to interest him sexually and this feeling seems to go both ways like an oncoming car crash. When Coco announces that she has to go away to Hokkaido for a short trip, Lau soon breaks into a celebratory dance – one of the few moments in the film that delights as Lau once again shows his aptness for Michael Hui type physical comedy that he did so well in “Fantasia” – but then reality sets in as he realizes he has no idea where to start his hoped for search for female companionship. A cousin invites him to a disco and he goes into prowl mode but he has lost all of his pick up moves and is a good deal older than the rest of the crowd.
He soon catches a break though when the delightful Cherrie throws a few looks in his direction and he is soon all over her like a happy to be home cocker spaniel. At the same time he discovers an old girlfriend, Carina, who it turns out is now a big time entrepreneur. While his wife is away for an extended period of time, Lau alternates between picking up the pieces of his friendship with Carina and chasing after the younger woman Cherrie. Andy makes his fetid appearance by being Carina’s younger paramour and he becomes jealous of her growing friendship with Lau. All of this plays out so predictably that you would have trouble getting odds at Vegas and for a film that is about a man trying to committ adultery while his wife is away, it’s so innocuously innocent that you wonder if the characters have working sex organs. Director Matt Chow (who is also responsible for the high art of United We Stand and Swim, Lets Sing Along and PR Girls – can this man be stopped before its too late?) waters everything down to a dull soggy mess. Is there no true emotion out there somewhere - no real pain - no true lust - no hearty laughs - just paper thin characters saying their paper thin lines? Not in the current world of Hong Kong romantic comedies there isn't.
A few nice words. Cherrie Ying is always a pleasure to watch – I have yet to see her in a very challenging role but have always enjoyed simply watching her face mutate into various expressions in which she uses her dewy pie eyes and full lower lip to convey her thoughts. She also has one of the better smiles in Hong Kong today – it starts off nibbling at the edges as if undecided to go on and then slowly spreads across her face like an Easter egg hunt on a Sunday morning.

My rating for this film: 5.5