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Diva
Diva

Hu Ge is the masseuse and Joey Yung is the diva in Heiward Mak's Diva.
Chinese: DIVA華麗之後
Year: 2012  
Director: Heiward Mak Hei-Yan  
Producer: Chapman To Man-Chat
Writer: Heiward Mak Hei-Yan
Cast: Joey Yung Tso-Yi, Chapman To Man-Chat, Mag Lam Yan-Tung, Hu Ge, Carlos Chan Ka-Lok, Kara Hui Ying-Hung, Fiona Sit Hoi-Kei, Venus Wong Man-Yik, William So Wing-Hong, Bonnie Xian, Wilfred Lau Ho-Lung, Matthew Chow Hoi-Kwong, Clement Cheng Sze-Kit
The Skinny: Heiward Mak's Diva does do a little finger-wagging at the Hong Kong music industry but pulls most of its punches in favor of clichés and platitudes. Joey Yung is unremarkable in the lead, though Chapman To is strong as her morally-ambiguous manager. An OK drama for undemanding audiences and that's it.
 
Review
by Kozo:

Conflict of interest alert! Heiward Makís Diva, about a Hong Kong singer (Joey Yung) who navigates the soul-draining arena of superstardom, was bankrolled by the Emperor Entertainment Group (EEG), the conglomerate behind the Twins, Jackie Chanís The Medallion, a luxury jewelry store chain, and other interests. Given The Powers That Be, cynicism towards Diva is possible and even expected. How can EEG make a movie about the sordid reality of being a Heavenly Queen, especially when their pet Heavenly Queen is the star? Will the story of superstar singer J Yim draw parallels to the real life story of superstar singer Joey Yung? Can widely-reported filmmaking prodigy Heiward Mak make another studio film after Ex and still retain her precious artistic cred? And will EEG execs indict themselves as the skeevy, entitled slimes theyíre often accused of being? The landmines here are endless.

The good news first: writer-director Mak airs plenty of the music industryís dirty laundry, thereby thwarting some cynical expectations. The story of J Yim (Yung, natch) comes with its ugliness. Her manager Man Kin-Sun (Chapman To) is an entertaining snake who subtly shoves the competition under the bus in order to prop up his meal ticket. Also, the two-faced competition and packed schedule obviously take their toll on the relatively down-to-earth J. Meanwhile, Manís new project Red (TVB singing sensation Mag Lam) is threatened with sexual assault by a scummy producer (Gallants director Clement Cheng), and is pulled in two directions by the slimy Man and jealous boyfriend Rocky (Carlos Chan). Another wannabe singer, Gennie (Venus Wong), has it even worse, performing sexual favors for a film director and acting as an escort for businessmen. Yep, Mak and company definitely acknowledge the entertainment industryís dark side.

Unfortunately, fears that Diva will pull its punches are ultimately justified. The film neglects to feature an entity that could mirror EEG. For example, sexual impropriety is committed by independent contractors and nameless businessmen, not music label bigwigs. Record companies are never referenced, as Jís life and career seem to be the domain of independent manager Man, and thatís it. Man is free to enforce or cancel Jís contract as he sees fit Ė hey, you think the actual record company may have something to say about that? Also, Man is oddly portrayed as a stand-up, even self-effacing dude who can exploit his charges while still caring for them. The script serves Chapman To exceptionally well. Man is basically a lovable and unrealistic scoundrel, and the only reason the character convinces is because To delivers a smart and canny performance. Look past that, and itís easy to see Manís character is riddled with holes.

Jís character has problems too. As written, J is a talented and good young woman whoís suffering under the demands of her superstardom. She resists her duties only because sheís exhausted or wishes to nurture her relationship with blind masseuse Hu Ming, played with righteous dignity and unswerving decency by Hu Ge. Otherwise, J shies away from bad people and bad behavior, and will take Red under her wing instantly because, well, sheís just that awesome. If J is a diva then sheís the most benign one ever, and considering that Joey Yungís image is everything to EEG, itís likely that they exercised some story approval. Red is portrayed as pretty great, too; she questions stardom because she wants to be loyal to Rocky, and even when she realizes that itís not all rainbows and puppies, she refuses to throw the industry under the bus. Yeah, music can be a bad biz, but in the world of Diva, thereís still a route to retain your integrity.

Mag Lam looks like a regular girl and not a manufactured idol, so itís easy to believe that sheís the idealistic but pragmatic Red. Joey Yung is another story; never much of an actress, Yung is simply called upon to play herself here, which she does unremarkably and without the depth needed to really convince. It seems Diva may not be the story of a regular girl who becomes a superstar, but is instead a film about making a superstar look like a regular girl. EEG would surely like that spin, and who knows, maybe Joey really is just like J. If so, then Heiward Mak does a lousy job of selling Jís story as fact, as she relies on platitudes and plot twists standard to the ďlife of a superstarĒ story. There are potent moments, but too often Mak falls back on metaphorical monologues and hackneyed proclamations like ďIím a human!Ē to push audience buttons. These outcomes are too easy, and reduce characterization to easy, self-absorbed clichťs.

Visually Diva earns its wings, and Mak has a knack for portraying Hong Kong spaces as far more inviting and attractive than they really are. The problem is that her scenes ultimately donít complement one another, with the film saying many things separately but nothing as a whole. Musical sequences are either montage or energy-sapping second unit concert footage, and little is ever seen in the stars actually performing. If the love of music is one of J or Redís supposed drives, itís hard to tell because that message, like much in Diva, gets lost. Overall, itís hard to figure out what Heiward Mak is trying to say, except perhaps that itís tough being a talented, sensitive and in-demand young woman - like Heiward Mak, maybe? Makís debut High Noon showed confidence and verve, but both Ex and Diva flirt with self-absorption. Hopefully, with more time and personal experience, Makís work will one day match her still-evident promise. (Kozo, 2012)

 
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Vicol Entertainment Ltd.
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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