Review: BREAK UP 100 分手100次 (2014) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Friday, 15 August 2014

Review: BREAK UP 100 分手100次 (2014)

2.5 stars
BREAK UP 100 is promising, but uneven effort that tries hard to be a lightweight romantic comedy and a poignant drama about breaking up.

After a long hiatus since directing the 1994's romantic comedy HE & SHE, multi-hyphenate Lawrence Cheng (best known for his acting in 1989's THE YUPPIE FANTASIA and of course, his famous TVB stint in two Man of Wisdom TV series) finally returns to the director's chair for the first time ever in twenty years with BREAK UP 100.


BREAK UP 100 revolves around Sam (Ekin Cheng) and Barbara (Chrissie Chau), an on-and-off again couple who has been together for eight years even after suffering from 99 times of breakup. To avoid their possible 100th breakup, they decide to open a small cafe together and hire four young waiters (Hong Kong's a capella quartet C AllStar). Their cafe proves to be an instant success especially after Sam comes up with an offbeat idea of having a "Break Up Mini Storage", where customers are allowed to place their mementos of past relationships on the white rack with different "rental" prices. Despite the success of the cafe, both Sam and Barbara still suffers from a couple of disagreements over the course of their relationship and threatens to break up again at any time.
Lawrence Cheng's direction is adequate enough, but his best moment arrives during the latter part of the movie when he shifts the otherwise upbeat mood into a more serious tone revolving around Sam and Barbara's eventual 100th breakup. The script -- written by Lawrence Cheng, Hau Wing-Hang and Skipper Cheng -- exudes considerable amount of maturity and nuance especially the way they deal with the thematic elements of breaking up and the consequences that affect a person's original behavior. Kudos also goes to their delightful touches of including the innovative "Break Up Mini Storage" concept into the storyline.

Visually speaking, the movie's production design on the specially-built "La Cafe Je T'aime" cafe is simply pleasing to the eye.

No stranger to romantic comedies where he has portrayed many times before in the past (e.g. 1996's FEEL 100% and its sequel, FEEL 100%, ONCE MORE), Ekin Cheng slips into his familiar role comfortably with his still-boyish good look (believe it or not, he's already 46 years old of age!) while providing satisfying balance from playing a man-child character to a somber role.

But the real deal here is Chrissie Chau, a pseudo-model more famous for her sexy figure and pretty look than her acting ability, who really surprises me a lot with her level of commitment displayed into her character as Barbara. No doubt this is by far the most mature and engaging performance I've ever seen from Chau. Her onscreen pairing with Ekin Cheng is similarly captivating and even though their real-life age gap is far apart (Chau is only 29 years old here), they still look convincing enough as a young couple. 

As for the rest of the cast, Ivana Wong provides strong support as Sam and Barbara's best friend Priscilla while some of the celebrity cameos including Eric Kot as the cafe's first customer, as well as Miriam Yeung and director Lawrence Cheng himself playing two police officers, are equally worthwhile. 

The brief but wonderfully creative sequence as Sam gesturing his imaginary furnishing idea to one of his friends, Lorraine (Wen Xin) about his proposed cafe branch inside the empty shop lot. 

While most of the casts here are competent enough, there are others who simply fail to engage with their underutilized performances. For instance, Alex Lam, who plays one of Sam and Barbara's best friends, is particularly wasted here in his glorified cameo appearance that could have excised altogether. The inclusion of Hong Kong's a capella quartet, C AllStar (Andy Leung, Kenny Chan, Jase Ho and King Wu), in the meantime, feels more like a casting gimmick for promoting their singing voices rather than showcasing their acting skills.

But the biggest problem here is the uneven tone that director Lawrence Cheng tries to bring to the screen. The first half or so is especially a creative mess that tries too hard to be funny and heartwarming with all the overlapping quirky moments which are sometimes annoying. Even when Cheng manages to find proper footing once the movie focused on Sam and Barbara's 100th breakup, he still manages to drag the movie a lot with unnecessarily overlong sequences of music video-like montage.


While it's quite pity that the movie doesn't reaches to its full potential, BREAK UP 100 remains a reasonably subtle romantic dramedy worth checking out for.

* This review is written courtesy from GSC press screening *

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