comparison was inevitable. Both are cute, suddenly bankable
female popstars with successful singing careers, and both
have made romantic comedy their genre of choice. However,
Miriam Yeung and Sammi Cheng are not clones of one another.
If anything, their success is just indicative of another type
of duplication: the sudden proliferation of Needing You
Dry Wood Fierce Fire
seems to have a lot in common with that seminal 2000 romantic
comedy. It features an offbeat, slightly strange female lead
in Miriam Yeung, and a handsome male lead in Louis Koo. The
two play coworkers in an office setting, and like Needing
You the threat of gossip and office politics is always
around. Furthermore, the two don't have a lot in common at
first, but form a burgeoning friendship due to mutual respect
and a few convenient plot devices. Then a third party (played
by Flora Chan) gets in the way, so our two heroes must admit
their feelings or face life without each other. Or something
like that. Yep, just like Needing You.
Alice (Miriam Yeung) works for
"Ladies," a female-only magazine. However, publisher
Michelle (Flora Chan) decides to merge "Ladies"
with "Gents", an all-male magazine that employs
Ryan (Louis Koo) as one of the chief editors. As you'd expect,
this leads to your standard male/female office politics, but
the quirky quotient is upped thanks to Alice's status as a
fourth-generation Chinese herbologist. That means Miriam Yeung
gets to spend a good third of the film engaging in wacky cultural
shtick, i.e. prescribing herbs at the office, cooking traditional
remedies, and practicing kung-fu all over the place.
Alice's antics around the office
provides most of the film's comedy until the film's real plot
comes to light. Here it is: Alice finds Ryan incredibly attractive,
but he's sort of a lout towards her. Still, the two become
friends when Ryan falls for Michelle and vows to win her love.
Alice decides to help Ryan win Michelle, not noticing until
it's too late that her own affection is growing stronger.
Then Ryan must choose between the two women. Who didn't see
Like all romantic comedies,
the fun comes not in the outcome of the film, but in the journey.
In that, Dry Wood Fierce Fire stalls, as the buildup
to the eventual blessed union consists of wacky shtick, some
more wacky shtick, and then even more wacky shtick. Ryan and
Alice shop for furniture but stop to fight with a beggar (Cheung
Tat-Ming). They engage in Three's Company-type antics
when Michelle visits Ryan, and Alice must hide herself in
the fridge. They get their hands stuck together with epoxy,
which means we get a short sequence of them holding hands.
The comedy is certainly agreeable and fun, but nothing new
Director Wilson Yip has a track
record for terrific handling of character. That skill is lost
here because he's directing a romantic comedy. When dealing
with the horror trappings of Bio-Zombie or the cop
soap opera of Bullets Over Summer, Yip has brought
hidden depths to typically character-free genres. However,
the usual romantic comedy situations at work here are too
mechanical to allow for any hidden depths. There is the occasional
moment that accomplishes much more (a dinner scene between
Alice, Ryan and her parents is surprisingly affecting), but
those moments are buried beneath recycled romantic comedy
Still, the performers shore
up the film's laziness. Louis Koo has shown surprising comedic
instinct. In contrast to usual "aw-shucks" romantic
leads Aaron Kwok or Leon Lai, Koo has shown the willingness
to lampoon his own lady-killer image. His performances in
this film and La Brassiere have opened up a whole new
range of roles for him.
And, Miriam Yeung is a charming performer
despite her limited repertoire of mouthy, innanely perky characters.
Her comparison to Sammi Cheng is an understandable, but ultimately
questionable one. Superficially, the two resemble one another,
but the characters they play are quite different. Yeung is
the quintessential "jade girl", the girl-next-door
who charms thanks to her perky, pure-hearted attitude. Cheng's
characters seem to have more complex emotions, and her acting
style is natural and even deceptively subtle. Yeung is likable,
but Cheng is currently the better actress (though Marry
a Rich Man could make you think otherwise).
This doesn't mean that Yeung
is a bad actress. She's actually quite winning and likable,
though one wonders if she can handle anything else besides
mouthy romantic leads. Her career thus far hasn't really required
her to do more than pout, mug and smile. Hopefully a role
will come her way that actually requires her to act. She just
might have the ability to pull it off. (Kozo 2002)