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I Sell Love

Rose Chan and Pakho Chow in I Sell Love.

Chinese: 販賣.愛
Year: 2014
Director: Kevin Chu

Kevin Chu, Judy Chu

Writer: Judy Chu

Rose Chan Ka-Woon, Liu Kai-Chi, Pakho Chau Pak-Ho, Judy Chu, Mimi Kung Tse-Yan, Adrian Wong, Daisy Wang, Barbara Wong Chun-Chun

The Skinny:

Well-meaning indie film about compensated dating that drones on and on before coming to an unremarkable end. Despite the presence of Liu Kai-Chi, the acting and direction are not enough to compensate for a clichéd story. Not the most auspicious lead debut for Rose Chan.

by Kozo:
Respecting indie films is pretty easy because they’re made with effort and passion, and presumably eschew the crass commercial concessions that turn film into soulless products. Unfortunately, indie films can still be bad. Case in point: I Sell Love, directed by Kevin Chu (not Chu Yen-Ping) and based on a novel and play by actor/writer Judy Chu. Rose Chan stars as Tiffany, your average tall-and-leggy Hong Kong girl who’s in need of cash to support her meager student lifestyle. She makes some online connections that introduce her to the world of compensated dating, and after some brief self-loathing she’s living the high life and going by the escort name of “Caramel Latte”. The profession has its ups and downs (obviously), but her situation improves when she’s assigned to be the regular escort of Cheung (Liu Kai-Chi), a politician who treats her well despite not being a communicative human being. However, Tiffany begins questioning her profession again when she meets Rex (Pakho Chow), who’s nearer to her age than Cheung and generally-speaking much more attractive.

The drama in I Sell Love is easily recognized because you’ve seen it in a zillion other movies about prostitutes except maybe Pretty Woman. There’s a solid base here, but Kevin Chu can’t lift the drama beyond prosaic. Tiffany’s shifting emotions are not rendered convincingly – the film ably transmits her doubts, but her moments of satisfaction are not developed beyond a single montage. She’s given more complex emotions when paired with Cheung, but the focus on his issues is distracting and developed entirely through exposition by Liu Kai-Chi. Not helping is Rose Chan’s performance. She’s fine when asked to show silent emotion, but when reacting to other actors she has trouble keeping up. Chan’s line delivery is poor and some quirks – like her occasional detours into baby talk – are nigh-intolerable. Considering the material, Liu Kai-Chi is solid, and he delivers one trademark moment of epic scenery mastication for his fans. As the third lead, Pakho Chow never surpasses his plot function as the nice guy with a conscience and a sick grandma.

Despite the unremarkable story, I Sell Love could have been salvaged with better filmmaking. Stronger direction might have reined in Rose Chan’s undisciplined acting, and reduced the voiceover and eye-rolling metaphorical dialogue. Storytelling and pace could also have been improved; too often the film lets characters drone on endlessly with accompaniment from the intrusive music score. It would take more to fix the story; the filmmakers fail to justify a couple of plot turns that – while intended to be ironic or revealing – only seem obvious and unnecessary. Ultimately, I Sell Love is simply colorless and inept. While the modest ambition and sincere intentions are worth lauding, everyone stopped giving gold stars for effort back in grade school. Maybe Kevin Chu can learn from this experience and maybe Rose Chan can supplement her natural appeal with more refined skills. Better luck next time, folks! Sorry, I Sell Love, that’s all I’ve got for you. (Kozo, 11/2014)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
CN Entertainment Ltd.
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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