All’s Well End’s Well 2011
Hong Kong/China, 2011, colour, 2.35:1, 103 mins.
Directors: Chen Qingjia 陈庆嘉 [Chan Hing-kai], Qin Xiaozhen 秦小珍 [Janet Chun].
Lively revival of the New Year comedy franchise, re-positioned in modern-day Hong Kong.
Hong Kong, the present day. Legendary (and very gay) make-up artist Shen Mei (Gu Tianle) is hired by Mainland gold-digger Zhan Zhan (Yan Ni) to be CEO of cosmetics company Beauty Story that her oil-tycoon boyfriend Chen Qixia (Huang Baiming) has bought to keep her occupied. In turn, Shen Mei hires his old friend Zheng Yuqiang (Zhen Zidan), a skilled make-up artist stuck in a counter job in a department store, to head Beauty’s main retail outlet in Hong Kong’s Central. Zhan Zhan assigns the hard-working but klutzy Jian Jie (Zhang Bozhi) as Shen Mei’s personal assistant, and Shen Mei fits her up with billionaire Liao Xiaobi (Du Wenze), who’s looking for a woman who isn’t after just his money. Meanwhile, Jian Jie takes a liking to Shen Mei and begins to suspect he isn’t really gay; Zheng Yuqiang spends more and more time with Dai Mengni (Liu Jialing), his onetime girlfriend who’s now a best-selling novelist with a major personality disorder; and Chen Qixia, thinking Zhan Zhan has been unfaithful to him, undergoes a style makeover.
Zhen Zidan 甄子丹 [Donnie Yen] doing make-up kung-fu, Gu Tianle 古天乐 [Louis Koo] pretending to be gay (because it’s good for business), Zhang Bozhi 张柏芝 [Cecilia Cheung] back on screen after a five-year break, Mainland actress Yan Ni 闫妮 as an oil tycoon’s pampered lover, and Liu Jialing 刘嘉玲 [Carina Lau] as a novelist with personality disorder are just a few reasons to watch All’s Well End’s Well 2011 最强囍事, the best entry so far since the 1990s Hong Kong New Year comedy series was revived two years ago. Veering away from the attempt by All’s Well End’s Well Too 2010 花田囍事2010 (2010) to do a China-set costume picture with a mixed Hong Kong-Mainland cast, this fifth instalment of the franchise returns to roots with a story that’s set in the present and is almost pure Hong Kong (money, majiang, metrosexual mayhem), with Yan the only major Mainland name on show amid the many cameos by veteran stars and pouting starlets.
With producer Huang Baiming 黄百鸣 [Raymond Wong] handing over the directing reins this time to experienced rom-com writer-director Chen Qingjia 陈庆嘉 [Chan Hing-kai] and the rather more variable Qin Xiaozhen 秦小珍 [Janet Chun] – who made La Lingerie 内衣少女 (2008), Poker King 扑克王 (2009) and La Comedie Humaine 人间喜剧 (2010) together – the result is a technically very smooth movie that’s by nature episodic but only loses traction for a while in the middle. Good-looking photography by d.p. Huang Yongheng 黄永恒 [Horace Wong] in Hong Kong, Macau and Shenzhen helps give a fresh look.
In his first New Year comedy, top-billed Zhen is okay as a skilled make-up artist who’s not only straight but also wields a mean blusher-brush, and he has good chemistry with Gu, playing an old friend from make-up school. The main problem is that Zhen’s story strand isn’t really incorporated into the main story: he gets to do a very funny parody with Liu of his role in Ip Man 叶问 (2008) but their other scenes together, as exes rediscovering their onetime attraction, are basically from another movie.
The main action is centred on second-billed Gu, who’s entirely comfortable on his home ground of rom-coms and has a blast as a celebrity make-up artist who only pretends to be gay. It’s a long-established trope of Hong Kong comedies but, partnered here with a particularly vivacious-looking Zhang, as a Cinderella character, the idea still works again, especially as it’s not the sole point of the movie. (The main theme, for anyone who misses it, is that we must all be ourselves.)
Among all the other intertwined relationships, Yan has a lot of fun as a Mainland gold-digger, Huang is bearable as her goofy sugar-daddy, Hong Kong veteran Du Wenze 杜汶泽 [Chapman To] pretty much coasts as a yacht-owning billionaire, and Mainland-born Xiong Dailin 熊黛林 has at least one memorable scene as a rich bitch who gets her come-uppance from Gu’s make-up artist. Among the many cameos, sharp eyes may spot Mainland actress Yang Ying 杨颖 [Angelababy], almost unrecognisable as a sultry receptionist, and Hong Kong director Ye Weixin 叶伟信 [Wilson Yip] (Ip Man) as a church minister.
Overall, 2011 isn’t a knockout comedy, but it’s properly revived a wobbly franchise and ups the stakes for the arrival of 2012 next lunar year.
Presented by Beijing Enlight Pictures (CN), China Anhui Broadcasting (CN), Pegasus Motion Pictures (HK). Produced by Icon Pictures (HK).
Script: Chen Qingjia [Chan Hing-kai], He Miaoqi, Feng Jingqing. Photography: Huang Yongheng [Horace Wong]. Editing: Zhang Jiahui [Cheung Ka-fai], Deng Wentao. Music: Zhao Zengxi [Chiu Tsang-hei], Zhang Renjie. Art direction: Huang Bingyao [Pater Wong]. Costume design: Yu Jia’an [Bruce Yu]. Sound: Chen Zhijian. Visual effects: Different Digital Design.
Cast: Zhen Zidan [Donnie Yen] (Zheng Yuqiang/Arnold), Gu Tianle [Louis Koo] (Shen Mei/Master Sammy), Liu Jialing [Carina Lau] (Dai Mengni/Mona), Zhang Bozhi [Cecilia Cheung] (Jian Jie/Claire), Huang Baiming [Raymond Wong] (Chen Qixia), Yan Ni (Zhan Zhan/Dream), Du Wenze [Chapman To] (Liao Xiaobi/Hualiuliu/Bill/Smoothie), Xiong Dailin (Victoria Lee, Liao Xiaobi’s ex-girlfriend), Zeng Huaqian (Helen, TV show host), Jia Xiaochen (Kiki, TV model), A Duo (Huahua), Xie Nan (Susan, Chen Qixia’s secretary), Cheng Qian (Zhang, Chen Qixia’s investment manager), Liao Wanling (ugly beauty customer), Yang Ying [Angelababy] (Better, Beauty Story receptionist), Zhuge Ziqi (Memo, Zhan Zhan’s secretary), Li Manjun (Creamy, Shen Mei’s secretary), Wang Yuanyuan (Jodi, Beauty Story marketing director), Lin Simin (Social, Jodi’s assistant), Tan Kaiqi, Luo Yongxian, Qi Ziyan, Jing Wei (Beauty Story employees), Chen Guo [Fruit Chan] (bookshop owner, in end credits), Bao Qijing [Paw Hee-ching] (cardboard granny), Zheng Kelin (her grand-daughter), Du Shisong (cakeshop server), Chen Jieling (No. 4), Luo Baolin (photographer), Luo Jianming (bodyguard), Yang Wei (Cheng), Lu Mixue [Michelle Lo], Mai Lingling (posh ladies), Yang Shimin (cashier), Li Xiangqin (Zheng Yuqiang’s grandmother), Xue Jiayan [Nancy Sit] (Zheng Yuqiang’s mother), Chen Manna (Zheng Yuqiang’s aunt), Jiang Xinyan (Helen, Zheng Yuqiang’s younger sister), Deng Lixin (Zheng Yuqiang’s niece, security guard), Zheng Zhongji [Ronald Cheng] (delivery man), Zeng Min (Grace), Gu Zulin [Jo Kuk] (Xiaotiangu/Sweet Little Koo), Ye Weixin [Wilson Yip] (minister at Mona’s wedding), Xia Chunqiu (registrar at wedding).
Release: Hong Kong, 2 Feb 2011; China, 31 Jan 2011.
(Review originally published on Film Business Asia, 14 Nov 2011.)