Derek Yee’s latest film is calculated, annoyingly existential,
but still utterly watchable. The Truth About Jane and Sam is a wrong-side-of-the-tracks love story between reporter
Sam (Peter Ho) and wild youth Jane (Fann Wong). Sam is an
idealistic upper-class sort who first meets Jane as she’s
grifting middle-aged men for money. He decides to use her
as his subject for a piece on lost youth of the nineties -
a plan that Jane only agrees to after he proffers 3000 dollars.
So begins the tale of two opposite
youth who find understanding in each others’ differences and
solace in each others’ arms. Or something like that. There
is a genuine quality to the burgeoning romance between Jane
and Sam, though that may be due to the chemistry of the young
stars rather than an ace script. Derek Yee goes a little further
than he should with this movie instead of trusting the material.
There is an overabundance of voiceover and characters stop
to wonder who they are at inappropriate moments.
In fact, the whole film screams “post
modern self-reflection” with every other scene. We owe this
to Wong Kar-Wai, who may have started a lousy trend as everybody
and his brother now has a movie with a voiceover. Wong uses
it well as nothing really active happens in his films. Everyone
is passive and restrained, so voiceover helps to elucidate
character. Yee’s characters are trapped into a formulaic plot,
so voiceover shouldn’t even be necessary. We should be able
to see the characters change in their behavior and emotion,
just as we saw Lau Ching-Wan and Anita Yuen change in Yee’s
superior C’est La Vie, Mon Cheri.
Yee certainly had enough to work with in
this movie. He has two fresh young actors who bring little
baggage to their roles, and a tried and true romance formula.
In trying to tie the film into current angst, Yee only weighs
his story down. That and the standard side characters (Chin
Kar-Lok’s triad brother) only serve to make the film more
ponderous than it should be.
Not that this is a bad movie; it’s
actually very thoughtful and well-produced. Less trite than
it actually sounds, the film succeeds despite the abundance
of obvious plot devices. Nowadays I give points for coherency
and good construction - this movie passes with flying colors.