Look for a Star

Hong Kong helmer Andrew Lau finds his feet again with the feel-good modern fairy tale "Look for a Star."

With:
With: Andy Lau, Shu Qi, Zhang Hanyu, Denise Ho, Dominic Lam, Zhang Xinyi, John Chiang, George Lam, Rebecca Pan, Maria Cordero, Cheung Tat-ming, Raymond Cho, Monie Tong, Lo Yuen-yan, Ella Koon, Po Po, Pei Wei-ying, Yao Wenxue, Tony Ho, Gong Xiaoxuan, Terence Yin, Han Yuqin, Pinky Cheung, Kristal Tin, Belinda Hamnett. (Cantonese, Mandarin dialogue)

Hong Kong helmer Andrew Lau finds his feet again, after a series of post-“Infernal Affairs” misfires, with the feel-good modern fairy tale “Look for a Star.” Main story of an incognito billionaire romancing a poor hoofer-cum-croupier is about as deep as a centipede’s hip bath, but a top-class cast (led by Andy Lau and Shu Qi) and an aces tech package combine to make it an effortless date movie. Lunar New Year attraction in Asia, coming on the heels of Shu’s assured perf in record-breaking romantic comedy “If You Are the One,” took a twinkling $15 million in China alone.

Helmer Lau, who’s generally more at home with actioners or action-dramas, last tried a pure romance with the wobbly Maggie Cheung-Leon Lai starrer, “Sausalito” (2000). There’s no sign of that loose, almost improv structure in “Star,” even though the pic is entirely sustained by its in-depth cast and fluid mise-en-scene.

The setting is Macau — given a magical wonderland feel by Ng Man-ching’s lensing — where Sit Mi-lan (Shu) works as a nightclub dancer and croupier. Enter mega-rich, unmarried Sam Ching (Andy Lau) and it’s love at first sight, though she doesn’t realize he’s the millionaire who’s about to redevelop the beloved area she grew up in. Sam secretly lets the deal go for fear of losing her.

Script by Cindy Tang and James Yuen maintains its flow by introducing two other parallel strands — a pair of friendships, one between Sam’s tough-cookie H.K. exec, Jo Kwok (Denise Ho), and a mainlander hotel handyman, Lin Jiu (reliable Zhang Hanyu), and another between Sam’s driver, Ma (vet Dominic Lam), and a mainland woman (Zhang Xinyi) with a young daughter.

All three of the Hong Kongers (Sam, Jo and Ma) can’t seem to get a proper relationship in gear, and end up going on a TV show called “Follow Your Heart” to resolve their problems. The totally manipulative plot would be painfully cliched if it weren’t played with such charm and a fairy-tale edge.

Andy Lau, who’s spent many of the past few years in costume roles, slides easily back into modern duds, while Taiwan-born Shu, now in her early 30s, gives further proof that she’s developing into a classy actress without losing her early freshness.

Look for a Star

Hong Kong-China

Production: A Media Asia Films (Hong Kong)/Huayi Brothers Media Corp. (China) release and presentation of a Basic Pictures production. (International sales: Media Asia, Hong Kong.) Produced by Andrew Lau. Executive producers, John Chong, Wang Zhongjun. Co-executive producer, Wang Zhonglei. Directed by Andrew Lau. Screenplay, Cindy Tang, James Yuen.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Lau, Ng Man-ching; editor, Azrael Chung; music, Chan Kwong-ming; production designer, Silver Cheung; sound designer (Dolby Digital), Kinson Tsang; assistant director, David Lee. Reviewed on DVD, London, March 30, 2009. Running time: 116 MIN.

With: With: Andy Lau, Shu Qi, Zhang Hanyu, Denise Ho, Dominic Lam, Zhang Xinyi, John Chiang, George Lam, Rebecca Pan, Maria Cordero, Cheung Tat-ming, Raymond Cho, Monie Tong, Lo Yuen-yan, Ella Koon, Po Po, Pei Wei-ying, Yao Wenxue, Tony Ho, Gong Xiaoxuan, Terence Yin, Han Yuqin, Pinky Cheung, Kristal Tin, Belinda Hamnett. (Cantonese, Mandarin dialogue)

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