All About Love--Film Review
Hong Kong filmmaker Ann Hui has made half a career out of taking the
city's social politics to task, and she does it again with "All About
Love," an almost romantic comedy about four lesbian friends, two
one-night stands that end in pregnancies and the men that find a way
to be fit into their lives.
With homosexuality being decriminalized in Hong Kong for just over two decades and families increasingly being labeled alternative, the material is timely. But unlike "Night and Day," which managed to tap into the complexities of the marginalized (if somewhat melodramatically), "Love" drowns in its own politics and winds up sending mixed messages that are best left unsent.
Women's and LGBT-themed festivals are likely to take notice, particularly with director Hui's name above the title, but the chances of much beyond art house releases outside Asia, if that, looks unlikely.
Forty-something former lovers Macy (comedy veteran Sandra Ng) and Anita (Hong Kong's long-absent favorite glamour girl, Vivian Chow) reconnect by chance when both find themselves pregnant after spur of the moment one-night flings. Although both are confused as to what they're feeling and how to proceed, they do manage to renew their shaky bond with each other. While Anita considers terminating her pregnancy, Macy offers her righteously indignant lesbian friends Eleanor (Joey Man) and Wai (Jo Kuk) the option of adopting her child.
But when the fathers (Eddie Cheung and William Chan) get wind of the plans, they force themselves into all four women's lives and the hijinks ensue. Or they should ensue.
"All About Love" has flashes of wit and some earnestly charming moments, but those are buried under piles of distracting polemics and some disturbingly misguided "comedy." Dialogue that's supposed to sound like casual lounge conversation is littered with words like "patriarchal" and "heterosexual hegemony." Robert, the already-married father of bisexual Macy's baby, has a penchant for domestic abuse that stems from her excessive shopping, but gives up his battering ways when he learns to give his wife a few orgasms (!) so she'll stop nagging. The former comes off like a screed, the latter naively unfunny.
The film's cast is the one bright spot, and as she frequently does, Hui draws engaging performances from her leads. Each does what they can with the material they're given to work with, and puts considerable effort into making Yang Yeeshan's wispy characters feel like living, breathing Hong Kongers.
Things get a bit creaky when the time comes for Ng and Chow to get hot and heavy -- it's more a puff than an eruption of passion -- but their dynamic works more often than not; Ng's typical urbane charm helps. Too often, however, Yang falls back on archetypes -- the man-hating lesbian for whom everything is a political statement (whether or not she has hair on her armpits remains a mystery), the pretty lipstick lesbian who's never seen without heels -- that make it hard to care about them until it's too late. But that's OK, because that's when the preaching starts again.
There's an interesting film in here about the changing face of the modern family, but a pat, agonizingly happy ending really only makes matters worse. It doesn't come close to the jubilant finale Hui and Yang may have been gunning for.