×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Diva

Casting Cantopop queen Joey Yung as a Cantopop queen bemoaning the inconvenience of fame, "Diva" puts its protag on a pedestal and leaves her standing lifeless as marble.

With:
With: Joey Yung, Chapman To, Mag Lam, Hu Ge, Carlos Chan, Bonnie Xian, Kara Hui, Fiona Sit, William So, Wilfred Lau, Clement Cheng. (Cantonese, Mandarin dialogue)

Casting Cantopop queen Joey Yung as a Cantopop queen bemoaning the inconvenience of fame, “Diva” puts its protag on a pedestal and leaves her standing lifeless as marble. Emerging Hong Kong helmer-scribe Heiward Mak brought a sassy attitude to “High Noon” and “Ex,” but that’s sorely missing in this MTV-style music-industry whitewash; only the character of a talent manager, played with diabolical charisma by Chapman To, gets at the bling and bitchiness that make the milieu so intoxicating. Though fan support helped cushion B.O., this intermittently engaging pic won’t top the charts in ancillary.

The relationship between pop diva J (Yung) and her reptilian manager, Man Kin-sum (To), is briskly established with their first meeting and impulsive decision to partner up. The yarn then leaps forward 10 years, by which point J is already a pop sensation.

Man pulls a dirty trick, enabling J to go onstage in a $50,000 designer outfit originally commissioned by rival Fi (Fiona Sit). Singer-thesp Sit sets the screen ablaze in a four-minute cameo, her Fi guilt-tripping J and attacking Man with venom. It’s a combustible scene the film can’t top, and the tension fizzles after Sit’s exit.

J goes to South China to give a concert, but loses her voice after a traumatic accident, and requires the probing fingers of blind masseuse Hu Ming (Hu Ge) to relieve her accumulated stress. Conveniently (but improbably), Hu does not recognize her. The rest is all too predictable, and J’s rebellion, along with Man’s retaliation, generate less heat than intended.

In a parallel plot, Man spots a budding talent in singer Red (Mag Lam), who’s torn between her needy boyfriend, Rocky (Carlos Chan), and her thirst for success. Sizzling with sex appeal from the moment she picks up a mic, newcomer Lam proves quite a discovery.

It’s easy to read Red’s loss of innocence as mirroring J’s career arc, since both must weigh their passion for singing against the voracious demands of a cynical industry. But Mak doesn’t belabor the connection, granting them separate identities. Regrettably, the last 20 minutes weaken the impact of their dilemmas with a cascade of decorative montages and a mawkish romantic ending.

Yung comes off as the least developed personality in her own star vehicle. She’s proven herself a competent thesp, particularly in light comedies such as “Crazy N’ the City,” but in straining to present her character as a paragon of virtue, the film robs her of her real-life charisma. Even her meltdown is too graceful, with no raised voices or smashed objects. Oddly for a film ostensibly about music, she only sings two songs.

Like his chameleon character, To is the one who runs the show. Tossing off insidious remarks and double entendres with unctuous relish, Man wears his sliminess like a badge of professional honor. To heightens the complexity of his role by suggesting he’s genuinely hurt by his charges’ resentment, but leaves the truth intriguingly ambiguous.

The ritzy production package sports tony interiors and a pleasing palette of aquatic imagery. Live footage of Yung’s concerts are mixed in to little dramatic effect, while the background score offers a heavy serving of Cantopop. Other tech credits are fine; the pic’s Chinese title means “After the Glamour.”

Popular on Variety

Diva

Hong Kong-China

Production: An Emperor Motion Pictures (in Hong Kong) release of an Emperor Film Production Co. presentation and production in association with Zhujiang Film & Media Corp. (International sales: Emperor Motion Pictures, Hong Kong.) Produced by Albert Lee, Zhao Jun. Executive producer, Albert Yeung. Co-executive producer, Liu Hongbing. Directed, written by Heiward Mak.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Yip Siu-ki; editors, Joanna Lee, Man Pui-ki; music, Eman Lam, Veronica Lee; art director, Cheung Siu-hong; sound (Dolby Digital), Phyllis Cheng, Kwok Chi-man; re-recording mixer, Lam Siu-yu; line producers, Kenny Chan, Ray Chan, Jiang Baoshan; assistant director, Kiu Fat-chun; second unit camera, Jam Yau; casting, Kang Weiming. Reviewed at Broadway Cinematheque, Hong Kong, Aug. 17, 2012. Running time: 101 MIN.

With: With: Joey Yung, Chapman To, Mag Lam, Hu Ge, Carlos Chan, Bonnie Xian, Kara Hui, Fiona Sit, William So, Wilfred Lau, Clement Cheng. (Cantonese, Mandarin dialogue)

More Film

  • Lawrence G Paull obit

    'Blade Runner' Production Designer Lawrence Paull Dies at 81

    Lawrence G. Paull, the Oscar-nominated production designer who helped create the distinctive looks of 1980s films including the visually groundbreaking 1982 “Blade Runner.” died on Nov. 10 of heart disease in La Jolla, Calif. He was 81. Paull received an Academy Award nomination for art direction with David L. Snyder for Ridley Scott’s prescient film [...]

  • Justin Timberlake'Trolls' film premiere, Los Angeles,

    Justin Timberlake Returns as a Performer and Producer for 'Trolls World Tour' Soundtrack

    Pop star Justin Timberlake, who earned an Oscar nomination for his contribution to the first “Trolls” movie three years ago, is returning to the franchise as the executive music producer of Dreamworks Animation’s “Trolls World Tour” soundtrack, scheduled for this March. . Assisted by Grammy and Academy Award-winning composer/producer Ludwig Göransson, Timberlake produced, wrote and [...]

  • Leon Bridges Emily Bode Fashion

    New Designers Bring Fresh Perspectives to Red Carpets

    As awards season is gearing up, Variety looks at emerging designers that will make their mark on the many red carpets ahead: Bode For the guys, Emily Bode’s eponymous line of one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted clothing cut from antique fabrics and Victorian quilts has earned a following that includes Donald Glover, Dyllón Burnside, Ezra Miller, Leon Bridges, [...]

  • Alma Harrel Honey Boy

    'Honey Boy' DP Natasha Braier Took Nonfiction Approach to Fiction Feature

    The “Honey Boy” script that cinematographer Natasha Braier read prior to signing on with first-time narrative feature director Alma Har’el to shoot star and writer Shia LaBeouf’s intimate memoir-focused arthouse film was psychologically rich and emotionally fraught with no visual cues. It was a deep character study of the beginnings of his acting career with [...]

  • Queen and Slim

    AFI Fest Puts Nonfiction in the Spotlight

    Documentaries will play a more prominent role than ever before at the AFI Fest, which kicks off Nov. 14. While AFI Fest 2018 featured 15 documentary features playing in various categories, this year’s edition of Los Angeles-based fest will play host to 22 feature docs, 16 of which will screen in the fest’s new documentary [...]

  • Ayesha Curry and Stephen Curry attends

    Ayesha Curry Honored With Variety's Vivant Tastemaker Award at Napa Valley Film Festival

    The rooftop bar at the tony Archer Hotel in the heart of downtown Napa made a stunning backdrop for Variety’s Vivant party on Nov. 13. Vivant was launched at the Napa Valley Film Festival, which opened Nov. 13 with “Just Mercy.”  Variety executive VP of content Steven Gaydos introduced Variety Vivant Tastemaker honoree Ayesha Curry [...]

  • Dwayne Johnson

    Dwayne Johnson's 'Black Adam' Movie Sets Release Date

    Dwayne Johnson’s long-in-development “Black Adam” movie is slated to hit theaters just in time for the holidays. The New Line Cinema film film will debut on Dec. 22, 2021, five days after the release of James Cameron’s long-gestating “Avatar” sequel. Johnson has been attached to play the anti-hero for most of this decade. Jaume Collet-Serra, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content