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Break Up 100
Break Up 100

Chrissie Chau and Ekin Cheng between splits in Break Up 100.
Chinese: 分手100次  
Year: 2014
Director: Lawrence Cheng Tan-Shui
Producer: Lawrence Cheng Tan-Shui, Connie Wong Nga-Lam
Writer: Lawrence Cheng Tan-Shui, Ssilverwood, Skipper Cheng

Ekin Cheng Yee-Kin, Chrissie Chau Sau-Na, Ivana Wong, Xin Wen, Alex He Hao-Peng, Tyson Chak Hoi-Tai, Andy Leung, Kenny Chan, Jase Ho, King Wu, Louis Cheung Kai-Chung, Rachel Kan Mo-Wah, Alex Lam Tak-Shun, Yao Bin, Rosa Maria Velasco, Heidi Li Jing-Yi, Lawrence Cheng Tan-Shui, Angela Tong Ying-Ying, Chin Kar-Lok, Eric Kot Man-Fai, Miriam Yeung Chin-Wah, Jan Lam Hoi-Fung (voice)

  The Skinny: Decent romantic dramedy from writer-director-producer Lawrence Cheng that sputters to a relatively unsatisfying end. Nothing new happens here, though that's really a problem with all modern cinema. Featuring Chrissie Chau's career-best performance and Ekin Cheng possibly playing himself.
by Kozo:

Ekin Cheng widens the age gap with his female co-stars to 17 years in the romantic comedy-drama Break Up 100. Congrats to Cheng: Given his age (46 years), this cradle robbing high-water mark is a testament to his longevity, or maybe just an acknowledgement that he suits this particular role. The man who was called Hero stars as Sam, a forty-ish manchild cohabiting with Barbra (29 year-old Chrissie Chau), a buxom Hong Kong girl who doubles as his lover and mother. Despite being older, Sam is dominated by the bossy but caring Barbra, who looks after his every need and even quits her job to help him run a yuppie-targeted café named La Café Je T’aime. All the signage is misspelled La Café Je T’aie, a fact pointed by a French-speaking customer (Eric Kot), but there’s a point to the mistake besides pedantry. Sam may have inspiration, but he lacks focus and dedication – basically the stuff of a mature adult.

Luckily Barbra is around to steer Sam straight – that is, until the couple goes through their milestone one-hundredth breakup. As a Kong lui (short for “Hong Kong girl” but representing a specific female stereotype), Barbra is demanding and controlling, and prone to guilt-inducing insta-breakups. The film opens with highlights of the couple’s previous 99 breakups, each one threatened by Barbra and defused by a placating Sam. The café seems to be promising for the couple, especially once Sam uncorks his brilliant idea of renting “break-up storage space.” Heartbroken individuals leave mementos of past relationships at La Café Je T’aime, and Sam pens a pithy passage about said item, leading to some minor healing and, of course, increased coffee and cake sales. Unfortunately, Barbra and Sam’s issues flare up, until break up number 100 occurs and threatens everything. Sam obviously has to man up and apologize again, but the strain may be too much this one-hundredth time.

Break Up 100 was brought to us by writer-director Lawrence Cheng, whose reputation as an actor and entertainment personality far outstrips his cred as a filmmaker. As an actor in the nineties, Cheng often worked with the United Filmmakers Organisation (UFO), and Break Up 100 possesses some UFO film signifiers, like middle-upper class characters, upscale settings and the portrayal of Hong Kong as a cosmopolitan yuppie paradise. Sam and Barbra live in an unusually large flat, have expensive hobbies (Sam’s high-end bicycles hang on his wall as décor) and even own a strange steamroller-breakfast table combo that rolls around their living room. This lifestyle is a tad out of touch with today’s Hong Kongers – it seems every other film nowadays alludes to the housing crisis and civil unrest – but that’s just Lawrence Cheng working with what he knows. To his credit, Break Up 100 does serve up thoughts on relationships that should resonate with more than just Hong Kong people. The themes are familiar, but you can say that about every romcom ever.

The film’s exploration of break-ups and their accompanying emotions is cursory but perfectly acceptable considering the genre. Other details are less agreeable, like some culturally insensitive portrayals of Indians. Also, some of the supporting characters fail in their attempts to entertain. The film is pointlessly narrated by the café itself, while the café’s four busboys (played by boy band C AllStar) are annoying. One fine presence is Ivana Wong as the couple’s new pal Priscilla, who runs a neighboring cha chaan teng (Hong Kong-style café) and has relationship issues with a never-there boyfriend (an actor playing himself in a cameo). The issues are again old hat, but Wong nails the emotions and shares some decent moments with Chrissie Chau. It’s a bit odd that Priscilla becomes Barbra’s sounding board, though. While Sam leans on childhood friends (Alex He and Tyson Chak), Barbra has nobody except this new friend. That’s a bit unequal.

Also not equal: the film’s sympathy towards its leads. For the most part, Sam and Barbra are given balanced portrayals, with both demonstrating good and bad personality traits. However, during the final stretch, it’s implied that Sam is the bigger victim in the eternal Sam-Barbra struggle. Given how each character is depicted during the last act, there’s a sense that the fallout from the 100 break ups is largely on Barbra and her passive-aggressive behavior, rather than Sam and his arrested development. Making matters murkier is the lack of a happy or sad end; instead we get a listlessly drawn-out climax that shows its leads endlessly moping. This lack of clear resolution, plus the script’s pithy observations, marks the film as having a real goal, i.e., it’s really trying to say something about love and relationships. That’s an admirable but perhaps too lofty objective for a film that features a building as its narrator.

Accomplishment may be relative; people who’ve seen countless relationship movies might yawn, but younger or casual audiences may find something new or surprising. What is new and surprising: the Ekin Cheng-Chrissie Chau pairing. Age difference aside, the two play off one another quite well, and solidly convince as a couple at a turning point in their lives. Cheng long ago plateaued as an actor, but he hits all the right notes as a Peter Pan-type making the transition from manchild to just plain man. For Chau, Break Up 100 is an answer to her agent’s prayers; Barbra is probably Chau’s most grown-up, fleshed-out role to date and she handles it with such ease that it’s something of a revelation. Chau still provides fan service – tight tops and low necklines are plentiful – but never before has a film depended so much on her ability or range as an actor. For Chrissie Chau fans, Break Up 100 is an essential work. For general audiences, the film is a classier and more accessible alternative to Patrick Kong’s loud, potentially hive-inducing romance-comedy-dramas. From where I’m sitting, that’s a good thing. (Kozo 8/2014)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Intercontinental Video (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

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