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Hooked on You

          

(left) Miriam Yeung and Eason Chan, and (right) Yeung and Stanley Fung.

Chinese: 每當變幻時  
Director: Law Wing-Cheong
Producer: Johnnie To Kei-Fung
Writer: Fung Chih-Chiang
Cast: Miriam Yeung Chin-Wah, Eason Chan Yik-Shun, Huang Bo, Stanley Fung Shui-Fan, William Feng, Kwan Kin, Amy Chum (Tam Yan-Mei), Farini Chang, Jolie Chan Yuen-Kei, David Lo Dai-Wai, Stephanie Cheng Yung, Ai Wai, Wong Yau-Nam, Jo Koo, Charmaine Fong Ho-Man, Marie Zhuge, Gordon Lam Ka-Tung, Raymond Wong Ho-Yin, Hui Siu-Hung, Carl Ng Ka-Lung, Wong Wah-Ho
The Skinny: It's occasionally contrived and cloying, but Hooked on You is entertaining and even touching, and features winning performances from Miriam Yeung and Eason Chan. Considering its competition, Hooked on You may be the class of 2007. As of June 30th, it's hard to think of a 2007 Hong Kong movie that's better than this one.
 
Review
by Kozo:

It's Take Two for Handover Anniversary films. Hooked on You, from director Law Wing-Cheong (2 Become 1) and producer Johnnie To (more great movies than we could fit in this space), arrives on the heels of Mr. Cinema, which celebrated the 10th Anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China in a cursory, though very satisfying manner. Hooked on You is similarly cursory; it takes place from 1997-2007, and uses famous events in Hong Kong history to provide color and depth to the trials and tribulations of its characters. However, the history is just background here, and doesn't provide the overt commentary on Hong Kong and its people that Mr. Cinema did. Instead, Hooked on You concentrates on character and situation, and does so in a remarkably entertaining and even touching manner. The actors are good too, and barring a few cheesy flourishes, the situations are exceptionally well-played, and the emotions wonderfully felt. Frankly, given the current quality of Hong Kong Cinema, it's practically shocking how good this movie is.

Miriam Yeung stars as Miu, a twenty-seven year-old fishmonger working at Fortune Market, a neighborhood wet market that's home to the usual assortment of fresh food sellers. Miu is stuck running a fish stall thanks to her gambling, whoring father (the great Stanley Fung), who owes a bunch of money to loan shark Uncle Right (David Lo). Unfortunately, her dad continues to gamble and whore, meaning it's up to Miu to save up all the necessary dough to clear their debt and get out of Fortune Market. She does so through daily work at the fish stall, but she also moonlights by selling fish congee made out of the day's leftovers. Miu is willing to work overtime every day simply because she wishes for more. She wants a better career, an upwardly mobile life, and actual financial stability. What she wishes to avoid is many more years at Fortune Market, and she absolutely doesn't want a husband of her similar lower class standing. This rules out Porky (Huang Bo of Crazy Stone), Fortune Market's butcher, and Fishman (Eason Chan), a rival fishmonger who sometimes acts like a bit of an ass.

Fishman is an odd candidate for Miu's paramour because he's essentially her avowed enemy. That is, for about fifteen minutes of humorous gags which basically make Fishman look like an idiot. Fishman attempts to sabotage Miu and her father numerous times, but his plans usually backfire, and nobody in the market is on his side. And why should they be? Miu is practical, hard working, and possesses fine character, and Miriam Yeung embodies her with heart and subdued, down-to-earth charm. She isn't necessarily the sharpest tool in the shed; her desire for a higher-class husband causes her to pass up some good opportunities, and she gets sucked into a few ill-advised get-rich-quick schemes. But she's clearly a good girl who cares for her dad and is able to look past Fishman's loutish behavior to see that he's a good guy, too. Everyone in Fortune Market seems to love Miu, and though his attitude towards her seems to change a bit too quickly, Fishman grows to care for her too. He ultimately decides to change himself into Miu's ideal husband, and begins to hide his growing affection beneath the same loutish behavior that once pissed Miu off. The affinity between the two slowly grows, but as the years pass and Hong Kong changes, the chances of a union between the two only seems to grow more distant.

As mentioned earlier, Hooked on You differs from Mr. Cinema in that its panorama of Hong Kong's recent history is largely relegated to the background. Furthermore, the historical events or social trends depicted are usually only the ones that affected working class HK residents, e.g. urban renewal, rapid commercialization, SARS, etc. These are the things that affect Miu, her neighbors, her friends, and even Fortune Market, too. Soon after the Handover, Miu and Fishman find themselves in charge of Fortune Market, which is in a state of emergency thanks to the opening of a modernized supermarket nearby. The Fortune Market gang retaliates against their chain-store invader by offering value-added shopping bonuses (redemption programs, free samples, delivery, actual customer service), with hilarious and frequently satirical results. Miu also falls prey to a pyramid scheme in the year 2000, meaning lost cash and hope, and a further setback in her plan to get out of Fortune Market. The subplots in Hooked on You are almost episodic in nature, but they bear an effective character thread demonstrating Miu's affection for Fortune Market, and her desire to find a better life for herself.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in her search for love. She initially spurns a baker due to his class status, but later reconsiders when he opens his own restaurant. Meanwhile, she gives Porky and Fishman a red light in their advances. Porky chooses to leave Fortune Market to accomplish more, promising to one day return as a man worthy of Miu's love. That plot thread is dropped, but there's another point to all these characters coming and going from Fortune Market: the place is clearly a metaphor for Hong Kong, with the choice to stay or leave the market echoing the common pre-handover decision to emigrate or remain in the territory. Some characters flee the market seeking greater fortune, and others - most especially Fishman - doggedly remain, clinging to the idea of an unchanging home. One character even states that they wish for Fortune Market to remain unchanged for 50 years, just like China's promise in 1997 about Hong Kong itself. The metaphor is obvious, though a bit thin beyond its "We Love Hong Kong" message. Hooked on You is sometimes quite nostalgic, extolling disappearing local values and community spirit, and even goes so far as to imply that most Hong Kong people, in reflection, would welcome a return to the way things were.

However, that notion is a fantasy, and the film seems to quietly confirm that sentiment. People hope for things to remain unchanged, but life moves on with or without you. The film places weight on the past, but it also looks to the future hopefully. No matter what the outcome, there's good in both the past and the present, and missed chances can still be looked upon fondly. The bitterness here is noticeably sweet, a theme that is apparent in all relationships in the film: between people and Hong Kong, food hawkers and Fortune Market, and especially Miu and Fishman. The characters subtly change and grow, each maturing in their own way, and the actors sell the sentiments wonderfully. Miriam Yeung has matured far beyond her ditzy jade girls, and is able to convey emotion with sometimes just her eyes. Eason Chan may be even better; the actor manages to be both transparent and opaque at different times in the film, and never appears to be less than genuine. The situations in Hooked on You sometimes veer into cartoony, but the characters themselves possess real, felt personalities.

The film does have its issues. It possesses a witty and intelligent script, but some details end up feeling more cloying than appropriate. This is especially true towards the later portion of the film, when the film makes use of happenstance to suppose that these two star-crossed lovers will continue to criss-cross all over Hong Kong. The movie seems too smart for such obvious narrative tricks, and compounds the contrivance with its "return to Fortune Market" set piece. Still, the sequence shows us how the characters have grown, and despite its inherent cheesiness, the whole entertains in a gratefully satisfying fashion.

Director Law Wing-Cheong, whose labored but effective 2 Become 1 was one of 2006's quiet bright spots, outdoes himself with Hooked on You. The film is an accomplishment not because it says anything profound or especially important (in fact, given its quiet coverage of the Handover, one could argue that it shouldn't even be called a Handover film), but because it manages to surprise, affect, and above all deliver. The film possesses complex emotions that seem deceptively simple, and gives us characters that are seemingly worth getting to know. In the end, Hooked on You asks us to look forward, and not back, and it's a message that the filmmakers earn. If Law Wing-Cheong can continue to make commercial films as satisfying as this one, then Hong Kong Cinema's future may indeed be brighter. (Kozo, 7-10-2007)

 

Availability:

DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Media Asia
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS ES
Removable English and Chinese subtitles

images courtesy of www.mov3.com

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