Wong Jing fast-food cinema special, Sex and the
Beauties takes an all-star cast and throws them
into a tepid comedy masquerading as the Hong Kong
version of "Sex and the City". By masquerading,
we mean the film only generally apes the concept behind
the famed HBO TV series, and doesn't outright copy
it. That doesn't mean, however, that the film is a
stunningly original piece of work. On the contrary,
Sex and the Beauties features a mishmash of
situations and characters which seem utterly familiarprobably
because they were lifted from about twenty other sources.
Nobody ever accused Wong Jing of being an original
filmmaker; Sex and the Beauties is further
proof of his innocence.
Carina Lau stars as
Selina Wong, a famed psychoanalyst who likes to get
together with her female pals occsasionally and compare
notes on the trials of being a single Hong Kong woman.
When her first love Ken (Kenny Bee) approaches her
to mentor his wayward daughter, Selina is skeptical.
Luckily, Ken's honey lips win Selina over; she agrees
to house and watch over the girl, in hopes that she
becomes a proper lady. Meanwhile, Selina finds a new
patient, Dick Yan (Tony Leung Ka-Fai), a nice guy
who's also a triad boss. She finds some attraction
to him, but his wishy-washiness doesn't give her that
100% feeling. Plus evil triads hound him to no end.
Back to Ken's daughter:
her name is Yuki (Cecilia Cheung), and she's a total
nightmare. Featuring a complete "ugly girl"
look of stained teeth, tangleweed hair, unsightly
freckles, and a caterpillar unibrow, Yuki looks like
the Eliza Doolittle project from hell. Luckily, Yuki's
got chutzpah or character or whatever label one wishes
to attach to a sassy cinema girl. Despite her loud,
uncouth waysboth acting hallmarks of Cecilia
CheungYuki's got spunk, so Selina likes her
just the way she is. The same isn't necessarily true
for King (Andy Hui), Yuki's assigned bodyguard and
a former G4 agent. King is a tough, no-nonsense fellow
who doesn't take to Yuki's wanna-be-free ways. Whaddya
know, sparks fly.
Meanwhile, gal pal Philadelphia
(Athena Chu) has her own romantic issues. A popular
erotic fiction writer, Philadelphia gets involved
with two men of completely divergent ages. Suitor
#1 (Edison Chen) is her junior, and is cute but questionable
as a long-term partner. Suitor #2 (Hui Siu-Hung) is
a notorious radio show host whose wicked words piss
off untold amounts of people. He's also damn ugly,
but his way with words manages to touch Philadelphia's
heart. Who will she choose? Plus, thrill-seeker pal
Danger (Yoyo Mung) is pursued by a cute guy (Mainland
star Lu Yi) who makes a bet that he can win her heart.
To do so, he has to pass a bunch of dangerous and
possibly painful trials, one of which should be an
actual viewing of Sex and the Beauties.
Not that viewing Sex
and the Beauties is truly that painful, because
it isn't. It's just tried and trite, and rather average
for an urban romantic comedy. Wong Jing has never
been a mark of filmmaking quality, but he usually
can wring at least a few decent laughs from his cast.
Which is what he pretty much does here. His all-star
cast ranges from engaging to uninteresting, but there
are some notable turns. Carina Lau is charismatic
and charming, Tony Leung Ka-Fai is dependably funny,
and Cecilia Cheung is likable, though her performance
is not really one to write home about. If anyone stands
out, it's Athena Chu, who's playful, animated and
sexy. Chu makes the most of her screentime by acting
convincingly flirtatious, and manages to make her
attractions to both Edison Chen and Hui Siu-Hung suitably
diverting. Fans of Athena Chu: Sex and the Beauties is your movie.
Everyone else can either
take it or leave it. While not an all-out embarrassment
like The Spy Dad, Sex and the Beauties is just standard crap from the Wong Jing fun factory.
Nothing that occurs here is remotely inspired or even
that interesting. The conflicts are routine, and their
resolutions equally contrived; a high-schooler probably
could have written this script. Also, there's simply
too much going on, and some portions of the film are
clearly less interesting than others. For example,
there's the Yoyo Mung/Lu Yi subplot: it gets only
cursory attention, which is good because it's completely
hackneyed and emotionally unengaging. It would have
been nice if their storyline had been properly developed,
but as it is, it would have been better had they just
cut the whole subplot out. Note to Wong Jing: we implore
you to go back and recut the film.
Ultimately, Sex and
the Beauties is just an average popstar vehicle
for fans who like to follow the exploits of their
favorite Hong Kong actors. You know they're out there:
people who will watch everything their idol does even
if it means sitting through tedious fluff like this.
But hey, those people make up a large percentage of
the HK Cinema viewing public, and I'd be lying if
I said that label didn't somewhat apply to me. At
the same time, it's hard for me to qualify this as
a good film, because it most definitely is not. This
is just lazy throwaway cinema, and far from the best
thing Wong Jing has ever done. It's also not the worst
thing he's ever done, but really, that isn't saying
much. (Kozo 2004)