I have a feeling my Top Ten of 2015 might just never happen. Too much to catch up on. Some personal stuff that’s seriously affecting my ability to seriously think about much. On the other hand, I am finally watching stuff, and trying to not let things wait weeks before I write about them. And, this time it’a a Pang Ho-Cheung film! It’s a must watch for me under any circumstances. However, I wasn’t totally convinced by “Aberdeen” and this is Pang back in the Mainland, where his previous non-Hong Kong effort “Love in the Buff” was a little ho-hum for my tastes. But I’ve been aching to see how he directs a proper Asian Movie star like Zhou Xun, so I will review this one with an open mind!
In “Women Who Flirt“, Angie (Zhou Xun) is a successful business woman who has a total unrequited crush on her long term best buddy Marco (Huang Xiaoming). He simply sees her as a Dude. They are really close, even so far as working together (Angie is Marco’s boss as well as college friend). When he returns back to Shanghai from a business trip one day, he announces to Angie he finally has a girlfriend, a flirtatious little Taiwanese minx called Hailey (Sonia Sui), and poor Angie is totally crushed. She feels she has missed her chance with Marco, and runs off to her friend May (Sie Yi-lin) for comfort and advice. Now May is a bit of a vamp, and she gathers together all her Shangai buddies (who are like a high-voiced annoying Chinese Stepford Girlfriends) to teach Angie how to beat the “Slutty Taiwanese girl” and win over her man. Of course normal Rom-com proceedings now take place, and all the highs and lows and ending of the film pretty much work their course.
So yeah. It’s a romantic comedy. And in terms of plot? It’s utterly unoriginal. Seriously, there is nothing left-field about this film at all. It is as by the numbers as Rom-coms get. On the other hand, even with the slightly suspect English subtitles (especially around the character’s names), it is somewhat amusing, and whilst I don’t think Pang’s usual use of ‘mature’ language is up to his standards in Cantonese, it does have a refreshing tone compared to many Chinese films. The film looks great too, visually it very much appears to be a companion piece with “Aberdeen“, with quite a few technical credits appearing to be shared.
The other thing in the movies favor is the performance of Zhou. She is one of China’s great actresses, and here she shows a lightness, comic ability and charm she doesn’t always get the chance to show off. She’s actually pretty delightful. And she is radically different to the other female characters in the film, which means even though you would have a hard time believing Marco didn’t see her for the hot stuff she clearly is, you can understand why he doesn’t see her as woman. Huang, an actor I have seen in plenty of movie, but usually don’t really notice him, is actually pretty good here too, although he is clearly channeling Pang’s more usual go-to Shawn Yue. But he’s still fairly charming, and does get a few interesting lines. I was a little bit disappointment in Sie Yi-lin, as I thought she was actually pretty fab in those awful “Tiny Times” movies, but here she’s surprisingly unattractive both visually and as a person. Sonia Sui is initially fairly forgetful, until her character is able to show her teeth, but this happens a little too late in the movie for my tastes.
So it’s fairly predictable, but quite funny. The lead actress is great. So up to a point, I am calling this a win so far.
Now I know this is just a silly comedy. But there is something which really bugged me throughout the whole movie. Whilst Angie is a multi-layered and honestly interesting character, the rest of the female cast don’t get the same depth. In fact the film is at pains to show all Shanghai women as horrible, shrill-voiced, manipulative, selfish horrors. And by extension that Taiwanese women are even worse. I realise the film is making a point by using general stereotypes, but some part of me felt it was a touch lazy, if not a little offensive.
However, possibly that is just me being sensitive and overly liberal. It is a fun little movie, although it is a very minor entry on Pang’s long term CV. It lacks cleverness and the usual ‘bite’ of a Pang film, but if you don’t mind an amusing but predictable Romantic comedy that’s pretty well made, it is hard to be too critical. I’ll give it a Recommended.