All about Love
Hong Kong, 2010, colour, 1.85:1, 105 mins.
Director: Xu Anhua 许鞍华 [Ann Hui].
Gender-reversal, “lesbian” comedy is let down by a lack of style and a clumsy script.
Hong Kong, the present day. At a pre-natal class, bisexual lawyer Macy (Wu Junru), pregnant from a one-night stand with client Robert (Zhang Zhaohui), an investment consultant, bumps into onetime high-school sweetheart Anita (Zhou Huimin), a bank employee, who’s also pregnant – from a clumsy blind date with college student Mike (Chen Weiting). Macy wants to donate her future child to lesbian couple Eleanor (Wan Qiwen) and Huihui (Gu Zulin), but Eleanor is against the idea as Robert was once a wife-beater. Anita wants Macy and her to raise their future child together, but Macy is scared of the emotional commitment, as well as getting back with Anita full-time.
All about Love 得闲炒饭 has drawn an inordinate amount of “serious” discussion (both eastern and western) – as well as festival attention – simply because it has the name of Hong Kong director Xu Anhua 许鞍华 [Ann Hui] on it and deals with lesbianism. All of this ignores the fact that Love is essentially a product of Hong Kong’s quickie commercial industry – executive produced by Wang Jing 王晶 [Wong Jing] and his sister Wang Ailing 王爱玲 [Angela Wong] at Mega-Vision Pictures (Future X-Cops 未来警察, 2010) and written by Qiu Litao 邱礼涛 [Herman Yau] regular Yang Yishan 杨漪珊 (Whispers and Moans 性工作者 十日谈, 2007; True Women for Sale 性工作者2 我不卖身我卖子宫, 2008). It’s also more a gender-reversal rom-com, of which there have been many Hong Kong productions during the past 15 years, than a true lesbian comedy. Looked at on these levels, the film is a passable quickie but no more: Xu has done many purely commercial productions in her uneven career but she’s always lacked a strong stylistic signature, and that is what is most missing here.
Romantic comedy is the hardest genre to bring off and at a pure technical level Love isn’t sufficiently slick or good-looking, with the 35mm transfer of its HD-CAM source material both fuzzy and lacking in sheen. But what rom-coms thrive on is potent screen chemistry and a sharp script. Here, there is none between leads Wu Junru 吴君如 [Sandra Ng] and Zhou Huimin 周慧敏 [Vivian Chow] as bisexual school sweethearts reunited by chance after 12 years. And the script, which suddenly introduces a work drama for Zhou’s character to provide a climax, too often tries to make we’re-all-the-same points that look terribly outdated in the 21st century. (An early discussion in a lesbian bar is clumsily written.)
Now in her early 40s, former pop singer-actress Zhou (Happy Together 相见好, 1989; Heart into Hearts 三人新世界, 1990) makes a wooden return to the screen after more than a decade away. The movie is largely sustained by tireless comedienne Wu as her cynical ex, Macy, and by stalwart Zhang Zhaohui 张兆辉 [Eddie Cheung] as Macy’s decidedly heterosexual business neighbour, Robert, who takes a liking to her after a one-night stand. Their scenes together have a chemistry and irony that are missing in the rest of the movie. Wan Qiwen 万绮雯 and Gu Zulin 谷祖琳 [Jo Kuk] provide passing entertainment as a lesbian couple with parenting issues, and there’s some fun to be had from cameos by actresses like the legendary Feng Baobao 冯宝宝, as Macy’s aged aunt.
The slang Chinese title roughly means “Making Love at Leisure”. The English title is the same as that of the rom-com 再说一次我爱你 (2005), starring Liu Dehua 刘德华 [Andy Lau], Yang Caini 杨采妮 [Charlie Yeung] and Cai Zhuoyan 蔡卓妍 [Charlene Choi], directed by Yu Weiguo 余伟国 [Daniel Yu] and Li Gongle 李公乐 [Lee Kung-lok].
Presented by Mega-Vision Pictures (HK). Produced by Class Limited Productions (HK).
Script: Yang Yishan. Photography: Lin Zhijian [Charlie Lam]. Editing: Kuang Zhiliang, Chen Zhiwei [Andy Chan]. Music: Chu Zhendong [Anthony Chue]. Production design: Pan Yisen. Costume design: Wu Min’er. Sound: Yang Jing’an, Guo Liqi, Tan Derong, Du Duzhi. Visual effects: Huang Zhiheng [Henri Wong]. Choreography advice: Yang Huimei.
Cast: Wu Junru [Sandra Ng] (Wang Meisi/Macy), Zhou Huimin [Vivian Chow] (Anita Chen), Zhang Zhaohui [Eddie Cheung] (Robert), Chen Weiting (Mike), Wan Qiwen (Eleanor), Gu Zulin [Jo Kuk] (Huihui), Feng Baobao (Macy’s aunt), Liu Tianlan (aunt’s girlfriend), Liu Rongfeng (Lucca), Kuang Wenwei [Abe Kwong] (personnel manager), Xia Miaoran (psychological counselor), Lin Erwen (Wang Mei, Macy’s secretary), Fan Yimin, Zhu Huimin (Anita’s co-workers), Feng Jianzhong (photographer), Robert Zen Humpage (Antonio), Li Xiaoming (marriage registrar), He Peiyi (registrar’s assistant), Chen Shanshan (Helen), Pao Hailun, Chen Wenhui, Liu Wanyan (lesbians), Wen Ruixing (social worker), Tao Mingying (pretty girl with long hair), Chen Zicong (middle-aged man in gym), Jiang Yi (security guard), Yu Xiaojun (mammography patient), Zheng Jiawei (delivery boy), Margaret Kutt (Nadia), Zhang Qian (Bobby), Huang Jing (singer), Lei Xiaojuan (ultrasound operator), Ren Dahua [Simon Yam] (sandwich-bar customer).
Premiere: Hong Kong Summer Film Festival (Opening Film), 11 Aug 2010.
Release: Hong Kong, 26 Aug 2010.
(Review originally published on Film Business Asia, 25 Oct 2010.)