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Sex and the Beauties

From left to right: Cecilia Cheung, Andy Hui, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Carina Lau, Pinky Cheung and Athena Chu..
Chinese: 性感都市  
Year: 2004
Director: Wong Jing  
Writer: Wong Jing  
Producer: Wong Jing  
Cast: Carina Lau Ka-Ling, Cecilia Cheung Pak-Chi, Athena Chu Yan, Yoyo Mung Ka-Wai, Pinky Cheung Man-Chi, Lu Yi, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Andy Hui Chi-On, Edison Chen, Hui Siu-Hung, Kenny Bee, Philip Keung Ho-Man, Patrick Tang Kin-Won, Wong Tin-Lam, Cheng Pei-Pei, Isabel Chan Yat-Ning, Lee Kin-Yan, Zuki Lee Si-Pui
The Skinny: Tepid urban comedy from Wong Jing, which takes standard characters and situations and does the expected with them. Fun turns from Athena Chu and Carina Lau make this a passably amusing time, though the abundance of name actors and subplots can't hide the fact that this is recycled, uncreative stuff.
by Kozo:

Another 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 familiar—probably 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 ways—both acting hallmarks of Cecilia Cheung—Yuki'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)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0
Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

images courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen