Review: DON'T GO BREAKING MY HEART 單身男女 (2011) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Review: DON'T GO BREAKING MY HEART 單身男女 (2011)

Review: DON'T GO BREAKING MY HEART 單身男女 (2011)

Nowadays, rarely has mainstream Hong Kong romantic comedy makes me sit up and take notice. I remember the last time that impressed me the most was that Johnnie To's hugely-popular NEEDING YOU, which starred Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng. The year was 2000, and that was 11 years ago. But upon seeing Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai return to the romantic comedy genre after years of exploring crime genre, there's a glimmer of hope I might expect that impression again. And I have to tell you this... it's certainly unexpected to find out that their first romantic comedy, DON'T GO BREAKING MY HEART, which aims for Mainland China market, is a hugely entertaining movie about a girl stuck between two lovesick guys. Movies about love triangle are nothing new here, but Johnnie To and his regular Milkyway crew manage to spin the oft-seen tale with a refreshing twist. Now who says that creativity can't excel for such commercially-produced romantic comedy?


REVIEW: The story goes like this: En route to work by bus, Cheng Zixin (Gao Yuanyuan) whose job is an analyst for an investment bank, stumbles upon her ex-boyfriend Owen (Terence Yin), with whom she has lived for seven years and had come to Hong Kong from Suzhou, China. Owen is now has a heavily-pregnant wife (Selena Li), who quickly freaks out when she can't stand him chatting with Zixin. Owen begs Zixin to leave the bus at once to calm his wife down. Witnessing the incident is a CEO of another investment bank named Cheung Shen-Ran (Louis Koo) who is driving alongside the bus and feels sympathy for her. In the meantime, Zixin gets off the bus angrily and walk across the busy street without even bothering the oncoming traffic. She nearly gets herself killed from an oncoming car when a raggedly alcoholic named Fang Qihong (Daniel Wu) manages to save her.

Back at the office, Zixin starts to realise that Shen-Ran, who actually owns an office across the building, loves to flirt with her by sticking the window with Post-It notes to shape all kind of happy artworks as well as magic tricks. It doesn't take long before they love to communicate each other with more Post-It notes and various gestures.

Meanwhile, Zixin and Qihong stumble upon each other again, and the two of them quickly become friends. Despite Qihong's ragged look of an alcoholic, he's actually a top award-winning architect who is once very popular until his work starts to deteriorate due to his heavy drinking problem. But thanks to Zixin's strong support, Qihong vows not to drink anymore and gets his life back on track. He also promises to show her his architectural drawing in a week's time where they agree to meet.

Unfortunately, Zixin's supposedly meet up with Qihong that night is totally forgotten when she finds herself disappointed with Shen-Ran, who fails to show up on their first date. Apparently, a sexy, foreign woman named Angelina (Larisa Bakurova), who works in an office above Zixin's, has unexpectedly caught Shen-Ran's interest instead. You see, Shen-Ran's biggest weakness is whenever he stumbles upon a sexy woman, he can get sidetracked within a blink of an eye. And at the same night comes a breaking news of Lehman Bros. filed for bankruptcy which causes Shen-Ran to shut down his business.

Three years later, Shen-Ran reappears and coincidentally he is now the new CEO of the investment bank where Zixin currently work for. She quickly tenders her resignation upon discovering her new boss, but she is at least needs three months' notice to do so or face the penalty. At this time, Shen-Ran takes his chance to make his move to win her heart back by buying her a fancy car, a flat as well as a marriage proposal that starts out well enough until the night when they are about to make out, she discovers Shen-Ran can't even make a promise to her for being entirely faithful. They eventually break up.

Then comes a reformed and successful Qihong, who is now has a new office which is used to be owned by Shen-Ran. He owes his rejuvenated success much to Zixin, as well as Zixin's frog in which he treats it as his best friend. While Shen-Ran tries to win Zixin's heart all over again, he soon finds Qihong as his serious competitor when Qihong also starts to make a move on her as well.

Blessed with a witty script by Wai Ka-Fai, Yau Nai-Hoi, Ray Chan and Jevons Au, the story is consistently innovative and refreshing enough to keep both die-hard fans as well as mainstream viewers entertained throughout the course of the movie. A series of creativity often sparked here and there, notably on such high-concept premise of how the threesome (Zixin, Shen-Ran and Qihong) signalling to each other through office windows with Post-It notes, written messages and other various gestures to show their affections (although this premise has actually been done before by Australian director Patrick Hughes's inspiring short called SIGNS, which has been a YouTube sensation since 2008).

Likewise, Johnnie To's direction is stylish where he certainly understands the language of cinema that action always speaks louder than words. Like the crime genre he often known for, he does successfully incorporate the similar cinematic vibe in this romantic comedy genre where situations are developed with minimal expositions and more on visual representations. The wordless flirtations between Zixin, Shen-Ran and Qihong in the office buildings across each other are among the highlights of the movie.

And as with any other Johnnie To's movie, DON'T GO BREAKING MY HEART also blessed with excellent technical standpoints. Cheng Siu-Keung and To Hung-Mo's widescreen cinematography are solid, while Xavier Jamaux's jazzy score is downright catchy and elegant altogether.

All the three primary cast are top-notch, with Louis Koo and Daniel Wu both at the top of their game here. But the best of all is Mainland actress Gao Yuanyuan. Not only she is cute and likeable enough, her wonderful bubbly persona is often charming that she can be the next queen of romantic comedy previously left vacant by Sammi Cheng. The rest of the supporting actors are equally credible, with Lam Suet and JJ Jia anchor their otherwise thankless roles good enough to make their characters interesting.

If there's any nitpicking about this movie, it's the unnecessary two-hour length which at times feels overlong. There are also times the movie feels shallow, particularly on the final resolution how things are eventually wrapped up in such rushed and typical fashion (you'll know once you see it).

DON'T GO BREAKING MY HEART may not be perfect, but to get a Hong Kong mainstream romantic comedy as enjoyable as this one is like finding a needle in the haystack. Every now and then, we need something creative like this movie to boost the lacklustre Hong Kong film industry.

It's far from perfect, but Johnnie To's DON'T GO BREAKING MY HEART leaves a lasting impression as one of the most enjoyable yet innovative romantic comedies ever seen in the recent memory.

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