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Honesty



Cecilia Cheung and Richie Ren reteam for Honesty.

Year: 2003
Director: Wong Jing  
Writer: Wong Jing  
Cast: Richie Ren, Cecilia Cheung Pak-Chi, Chapman To Man-Chat, Raymond Wong Ho-Yin, Harwick Lau Hau-Wai, Johnson Lee Si-Jit, Lee San-San, Prudence Kao, Lee Fung, Eric Kot Man-Fai, Wong Tin-Lam, Pinky Cheung Man-Chi, Iris Wong Yat-Tung, Louisa Ng, Eva Wong Sum-Yu, Sammy, Siu Yee, Wong Jing
The Skinny: Richie Ren and Cecilia Cheung reunite for this romantic comedy which isn't really romantic and only sometimes funny. The stars are pretty, and the film can be amusing in a fluffy sort of way. Still, Wong Jing's formulaic direction is annoyingly artificial, which could spell doom for more discerning moviegoers.
Review
by Kozo:
     Four years ago, relative screen newcomers Cecilia Cheung and Richie Ren teamed for Fly Me to Polaris, a bombastic, syrupy romantic drama which smacked the viewer over the head and yet still managed to push the right buttons. The pairing worked; Cheung was raw yet compelling, Ren amiable and sincere, and the two shared a fine screen chemistry. It's interesting to check them out in Honesty, which shows just how far—or not—they've come since then. One might wonder if Ren and Cheung can recapture their old magic, but there's one serious obstacle to overcome: Honesty was written, produced and directed by Wong Jing.
     Ren is Moses Tsang, a too-nice schmoe who could only exist in the movies. He's honest and righteous to the point of vomiting, and even has some silly disorder where he can't stop crying if he tells a lie. He's also a hellaciously bad singer, which is a plot device learned in the first few minutes—ergo, it must show up later in some obviously set up way. Moses is a veternarian who lives with longtime girlfriend Mi (Lee San-San). However, Mi has a fling with the pizza guy (Eric Kot in a cameo), so Moses moves in with nephew Barry (Raymond Wong Ho-Yin), a slimy player with many women on a string. This arrangement means Moses must help in the chicanery, thus he's going to cry a lot and generally complain about how terrible lying is.
     However, Moses' niceness gets him some goods. Every week he visits an aging retiree (Wong Tin-Lam), who decides to bequeath $25 million in US bills to Moses. Due to even more convoluted circumstances, the news filters all the way down to club girl Didi (Cecilia Cheung) before it ever gets to Moses. A mouthy, materialistic girl, Didi plans to worm her way into Moses heart, and gets her chance when she conveniently bumps into him at a cosplay party for an old teacher. Using the plot of her favorite book (a weepie featuring a heart-diseased heroine), Didi pretends to be sickly to win Moses' support. She ends up living with him, which equals shtick, shtick and more shtick. Eventually we're asked to believe that she develops real feelings for him. Then, manufactured heart-tugging circumstances and telling voiceover appear to induce us into buying the outlandish plot. By the time the end credits roll, the easily-manipulated could be reduced to tears.
     Honesty features a wacky plot device-ridden setup that's egregiously silly even by Wong Jing's loose standards. What that means is many, many silly plot details are strewn about the storyline like markers on a narrative road map. Ostensibly, the details are mean to enrich and add amusement, but they turn out to be more random and annoying than anything else. In addition to Moses' wacky hang-ups, there's also a wacky ex-boyfriend (ubiquitous Chapman To), minor references to Nicholas Tse and F4, the return of Mi (who ends up living with Moses and Didi) and extended comedy sequences where Moses is drawn into elaborate deceptions and/or lies. What it all means is this: absolutely nothing. The plot is as coherent and organized as the leaves littering your front lawn, and rips off dozen of movies, many of which were made by Wong himself. Hasn't he learned that you're supposed to steal from the best?
     But hey, this is Wong Jing. In all likelihood, he wrote the script while checking out the newspaper for the latest race results. Logic, continuity and just plain common sense get thrown out the window for this ninety-nine minute affair. Even worse, the film features copious voiceover instead of actual plot and character development. Cinematically, the film would be a hard sell anyway, since the plot is so ridiculous. The voiceover is intended to connect all the dots for the audience, and make what's happening more obvious if not more logical. And since what's happening isn't very logical, the voiceover only comes off as overbearing. Let's get this straight: the story IS NOT the thing here.
     So what is? Well, if you're a fan of Cecilia Cheung, you really can't go wrong with Honesty. Cheung may look like the poster child for anorexia, but she's also naturally lovely and a deceptively good actress. Her ability to handle the more serious emotions in her characters is a rare one among Hong Kong actresses. When asked to show inner emotion, Cheung is one of the best Hong Kong has. Unfortunately, Honesty is a comedy, which means most of the time she has to squeal, squirm, and act unconvincingly sassy. Cheung may be incredibly cute, but she's not so great at acting cute.
     But who are we kidding? Does anyone really care how Cecilia Cheung acts in this film? Probably not. In all likelihood, the red-blooded males of the world only care how she looks—and she looks great. Skinny, yes, but great. She also parades around in nosebleed-inducing costumes, including a school uniform and various navel-revealing tight ensembles. If that's what you're here for then you'll go home happy.
     As for the other actors, Richie Ren is admirably self-deprecating, and the various co-stars (Chapman To and Raymond Wong are amusing) certainly distract. It's not like the actors could really do much with such a fluffy script anyway. This is a time-killing fluff-fest, pure and simple. Nobody should tune in here for real emotion and actual creativity. This is pop-star eye-candy and time-filling wacky stuff, and those who are big fans of this sort of weightless star vehicle could find themselves entertained. At the very least, the film isn't out-and-out insulting like The Irresistible Piggies, or completely interminable like The Conman 2002. Since Wong Jing wasn't aiming very high (Does he ever aim high?), it would be hard to fault this film as some sort of failure. All told, Honesty is probably as good as you'd expect it to be. Leave enlarged expectations at the door. This film is not Comrades, Almost a Love Story or Needing You. But hey, it's also not The Wesley's Mysterious File. (Kozo 2003)
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Mega Star
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

image courtesy of Mega Star Video Distribution, Ltd.

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