Thursday, November 27, 2014

Women Who Flirt

I noticed when Aberdeen played here earlier this year that director Pang Ho-cheung seems to be doing a new variety of "one for them, one for me" - doing two movies in a year, one a Cantonese-language film that is pretty specifically set in Hong Kong, and a Mandarin-language one that seems built to play to a much broader mainland audience. Fortunately, this time around the mainstream one isn't nearly as hobbled as Love in the Buff, although I still kind of wonder what the same movie set in Hong Kong would be like.

But, hey, at least we're getting Pang Ho-cheung's movies in America - this is his fourth straight one to be distributed by China Lion here, the third of which is more or less day-and-date with China (actually a day or two earlier!). I've been becoming a fan of this guy since the one-two punch of Love in a Puff and Dream Home at Fantasia a few years back (later realizing that he also made Isabella), and while I wasn't quite in the packed auditorium this time - I was able to catch an earlier-than-usual show on the day before Thanksgiving - there was still a pretty good crowd. Watching Women Who Flirt, I'm starting to wonder if he isn't necessarily wasted on romantic comedies but maybe brings more than one might expect - this is a pretty nicely-made film, able to overcome some of the weird sexual politics of the genre and stitching things together visually it ways that you might not imagine. It's also not the average film of this genre that sticks spaghetti western music into a scene in a way that doesn't seem to go for the obvious joke. There is some quietly weird stuff going on in this movie, enough that I talked myself into liking it aferward a bit more than I did just coming out.

Women Who Flirt (aka Women Who Know How to Flirt Are the Luckiest)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 26 November 2014 at Regal Fenway #9 (first-run, DCP)

Women Who Flirt (or, to use its full Chinese name, "Women Who Know How to Flirt Are the Luckiest") teeters on the edge of being the sort of romantic comedy that doesn't respect its primary target audience of women much at all, depicting them as all about landing a man via manipulation, even when theoretically trying to say the opposite. Even when "two girls fight over a guy" mostly works, as it does here, a more progressive or individual story might be nice.

The guy is "Marco" Gong Xiao (Huang Xiaoming), a nice-enough seeming Shanghai lad who works with long-time friend "Angie" Zhang Hui (Zhou Xun); she has had a crush on him since at least college but never made a move because he didn't plan to date until he could provide for his father. That changes when he comes back from a trip to Taiwan with Hailey (Sonia Sui Ta), a pretty young thing who seemed to flirt her way into Marco's life in a way that doesn't come naturally to the straightforward Angie. Fortunately for her, her best friend May (Xie Yilin) knows this stuff cold, and her "Barbie Army" is there to help.

In a lot of ways, Women Who Flirt director Pang Ho-cheung doesn't stray far from that romantic comedy template of the girl unpretentious enough to be just one of the guys having to figure out how to beat one who instinctually knows how to use her feminine wiles at her own game. That costs the movie at times; Angie, Marco, and Hailey don't differentiate themselves that much from other versions of the Cinderella story enough for their individual actions to be the source of much suspense or surprise, even if some of the details are clever or funny. The movie is heading toward a fairly predestined end, although it deserves a bit of credit for the way it handles some of the stops along the way.

Full review at EFC.

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