×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Love Off the Cuff’

Although raunchy as ever, the third entry in the hit rom-com series about an on-again, off-again relationship shows signs of fatigue.

With:
Miriam Yeung, Shawn Yue, Paul Chun, Jiang Mengjie, Derek Tsang, Susan Shaw, Wang Xiaochen, Toby Lee, Hugo Ng, Dada Chen. (Cantonese, Mandarin dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5956006/

The dialogue is dirtier than ever, and the gags outrageous, and yet, like the two central characters and the seven-year relationship they labor to keep alive, “Love Off the Cuff” shows signs of fatigue as Hong Kong auteur Pang Ho-cheung runs out of anything stunningly new to say in the third film in his urban rom-com series. Even so, the movie packs Pang’s trademark smart-ass humor, plenty of colloquial Cantonese wordplay, and a stream of cameos by dishy starlets — all of which should guarantee a robust box office in Hong Kong, but a meh reaction in China.

Pang, who started out as a whiz kid making off-color indie comedies, shot “Love in a Puff” in 2010 as a snarky rejoinder to a new anti-smoking law in Hong Kong. The protagonists, Sephora-lady Cherie (Miriam Yeung) and ad-man Jimmy (Shawn Yue) were chainsmokers who meet cute huddling over a garbage-can. The film became a sleeper hit, spawning the sequel “Love in the Buff,” which relocated events to Beijing as the couple kept falling in and out of love. By 2017, they have returned home from their expat stint and settled into the convenience of cohabitation. Neither wussy Jimmy nor chronically insecure Cherie feels ready to take things to the next stage.

Like “Love in the Buff,” the film kicks off with a shaggy-dog story that exemplifies Pang’s lurid imagination and his gift for juggling clashing tones. It’s a disarmingly cheesy account of Gat Gat Gong, a limping cross between King Kong and Godzilla who makes late-night snacks of hapless little girls. As the story evolves, the monster comes to symbolize Cherie’s underlying phobia of men and their womanizing nature. That cautionary tale segues into a midnight outing by a reservoir, where Cherie and Jimmy’s harmless desire to catch a glimpse of UFOs goes obscenely wrong, yielding the biggest howler in Pang’s entire repertoire.

The next snafu to hit their relationship occurs when Jimmy takes their Old English Sheepdog for a stroll, resulting in a horny hook-up that triggers all of Cherie’s jealousy and apprehension about their situation. Her world is then turned upside-down by visits from two unwanted relatives: her father (Paul Chun), who walked out on her mother, and Jimmy’s sexually forthright godmother (Jiang Mengjie) from Toronto.

Few Hong Kong helmers have explored commitment blues to the extent that Pang has, laying bare lovers’ calculations and narcissism with brutal honesty, while making such traits seem almost endearing.  By collaborating with such woman writer-directors as Heiward Mak (“Love in a Puff”) and Luk Yee-sum (“Love in the Buff”), he succeeds in capturing the authentic perspectives of both genders within his ribald relationship studies — another plus — though it’s rare to encounter quite so many female-delivered obscenities on Hong Kong screens, which gives the sassy characters attitude, while imbuing the film with a realistic contemporary edge.

Pang, along with co-writers Luk and Jimmy Wan, expose the pitfalls lurking under the comfort zone of a long relationship with whip-smart observations and quirky details, as when Cherie tries to compensate for being a few years older than Jimmy by getting a henna job in a certain grey area. The more serious side of her age-based obsession reveals itself through her feelings that he will never grow up. (Since Jimmy is so much less of a douchebag than he was in the last two movies, one can’t help wonder whether she’s set the bar impossibly high for any guy to meet.)

If only Cherie had been given the screen time and emotional arc to understand her own fears and work through the couple’s impasse, the film might have gained genuine heft. Instead, it’s filled with outlandish gags comprising anything from turd jokes to alien encounters, while an attempt to explain away Cherie’s self-doubt and mistrust in men via a childhood trauma is so simplistic and hackneyed. Even though a singalong in the finale is infectious and moving, one expects something more out-of-the-box from Pang.

As in the old couple Yeung and Yue play, the duo’s chemistry just gets better with every episode. Other performances are feisty across the board, especially from a gaggle of Cherie’s close friends, a coven of single fortysomething ladies whose withering comments about men serve as a Greek chorus of doom while providing the film with some of its sharpest wisecracks (although Cherie’s dad is so pathologically sleazy, the funny character strains plausibility).

Production values are the glossiest in the trilogy, though Chou Yi-hsien’s bright, colorful camerawork lacks the impromptu playfulness of “Puff’s” handheld lensing. Man Lim-chung’s production design and Polly Chan’s costumes are models of urban chic, but drain out much of Hong Kong’s messy but vital local ambience.

Film Review: 'Love Off the Cuff'

Reviewed at Hong Kong Film Festival (opener), April. 11, 2017. Running time: 120 MIN. (Original title: "Chun-kiu Gau Chi-ming")

Production: (Hong Kong-China) A Media Asia Film Distribution (HK) (in Hong Kong), Youth Enlight Pictures (in China) release of a Media Asia Films., Enlight Pictures, Sun Entertainment Culture, China Film Media Asia Audio Video Distribution, Media Asia Distribution (Beijing) Co., Shanghai Shengyue Drama, Film Media presentation of a Making Film Prod. production, in association with China Film Co-production. (International sales: Media Aisa, Hong Kong.) Producer: Subi Liang. Executive producers: Peter Lam, Wang Changtian, Alvin Chau, La Peikang.

Crew: Director: Pang Ho-cheung. Screenplay: Pang, Jimmy Wan, Luk Yee-sum, based on an original story by Pang. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Chou Yi-hsien. Editor: Wenders Li. Music: Alan Wong, Janet Yung, Peter Chan.

With: Miriam Yeung, Shawn Yue, Paul Chun, Jiang Mengjie, Derek Tsang, Susan Shaw, Wang Xiaochen, Toby Lee, Hugo Ng, Dada Chen. (Cantonese, Mandarin dialogue)

More Film

  • 'Boonie Bears' Creator Fantawild Producing 'Realm

    FilMart: 'Boonie Bears' Creator Fantawild Skews Older With 'Realm of Terracotta'

    Fantawild, the Chinese entertainment group behind the widely popular “Boonie Bears” animated franchise, is for the first time planning to target slightly older viewers with a new IP, “Realm of Terracotta.” Intended for teenagers, the adventure story is expected to hit theaters this summer. Fantawild has produced six “Boonie Bears” films in just seven years, [...]

  • Hong Kong Industry Executives Seek Clarity

    FilMart: Hong Kong Industry Executives Plead for Clarity on Mainland Chinese Tax Policies

    At a time of heightened scrutiny of tax affairs in China’s entertainment sector, even industry veterans in Hong Kong are struggling to figure out how to operate in the new financial environment and pleading for more clarity from the Chinese government. Hong Kong produces about 60 films a year, three-quarters of which are typically co-productions [...]

  • IQIYI Plans Summer Release for Animated

    IQIYI Plans Summer Release for Animated 'Spycies'

    IQIYI Motion Pictures, the film production and investment arm of Chinese streaming leader iQIYI, will release animated feature “Spycies” in China this summer, and overseas shortly afterwards. “Spycies” is a Sino-French co-production – a rarity as far as animated films are concerned – and the first animated film that iQIYI has co-produced with foreign filmmakers. [...]

  • Local Production Drive Sees CJ Entertainment

    Local Production Drive Sees CJ Entertainment Unveil Dozen International Titles

    Korean entertainment powerhouse CJ Entertainment has amped up its overseas filmmaking efforts to the point that it is now producing more movies outside Korea than at home. At FilMart in Hong Kong, CJ unveiled a slate of 13 new titles hailing from the U.S., Turkey, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. More Reviews Video Game Review: 'The [...]

  • Johnny Depp Reveals Photographer's Late Life

    FilMart: Johnny Depp to Reveal U.S. Photographer's Japanese Redemption in 'Minamata'

    The sleepy Japanese town of Minamata was the scene of one of the world’s greatest environmental disasters when it was poisoned by mercury in the 1970s. It was also the setting for a groundbreaking international treaty designed to control use of the deadly metal. U.K. sales agent HanWay Films will use its platform at FilMart [...]

  • Big-Budget 'Raging Fire,' 'The Rescue' Highlight

    Big-Budget Actioners 'Raging Fire,' 'The Rescue' Highlight Emperor's Upcoming Slate

    Big-budget action blockbusters “Raging Fire” and “The Rescue” headlined Emperor Motion Pictures’ (EMP) star-studded announcement at FilMart on Tuesday, which also saw many familiar Hong Kong faces returning for locally focused projects. EMP also highlighted its mainland Chinese projects at the event, including “Two Tigers,” a black comedy produced by and starring Vicky Zhao Wei [...]

  • 'Us' Box Office: Jordan Peele Movie

    Box Office: Can Jordan Peele's 'Us' Dethrone 'Captain Marvel'?

    Will lightning strike twice for Jordan Peele? That’s the big question this weekend as “Us,” the horror maven’s latest undertaking that puts the spotlight on not one, but two Lupita Nyong’os, arrives on the big screen. After Peele’s Oscar-winning directorial debut “Get Out” captured the zeitgeist and became a box office smash, audiences have been [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content