It has been said that there are only two kinds of men in the world: Those who cheat on their wives, and those who want to. At least this is what is said more than once in the 2011 Hong Kong romantic comedy Don’t Go Breaking My Heart. Co-directed by the illustrious duo of Johnny To and Wai Kai-Fai, the film proposes a possibility for us to consider; that there is a third kind of man. At least that is what the film’s female lead wants.
She is Zixin, played marvelously by Gao Yuanyuan. She’s a financial analyst. She’s been dumped by a guy, and nearly sleepwalked herself into a tragic accident with an automobile on a Hong Kong street. At the last second she is snatched out of harm’s way by a seedy, scruffy, wino drunk. He is Fang (Daniel Wu has the role). Turns out he is, or rather was, an award winning architect who burned out on success and now the only thing he looks forward to is his next drink.
She works in an office tower and across the way, in the next building, we find Cheung. Louis Koo has the part. He is the CEO of an investment bank. He has just two rules (actually three but bear with me a minute). Rule Number One – we never lose money. Rule Number Two – we never forget rule number one. Anyway Cheung and Zixin began a window to window flirtation. Ultimately she agrees to a coffee date with him via post it notes and hand held signs.
But she has forgotten that she made a date a week ago with the down and not quite out architect who saved her life for that very evening.
Meanwhile, Cheung has noticed a very busty babe working two floors below Zixin. She notices Cheung’s window flirtations and thinks they are meant for her. So a second coffee date is arranged at the same place.
There’s some confusion – Cheung is called an asshole (via a handwritten placard) by a thoroughly pissed Zixin after Cheung doesn’t show for their date and she sees him with the bimbo who made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Meanwhile Fang the architect has taken Zixin’s advice, and decided to get his act together as well as getting his groove back. He waits for her but she never shows.
There’s your set up and there’s your Act One. As Act Two begins we see the fall of Lehman Brothers on a big news screen playing on the side of a Hong Kong Building.
The repercussions are felt all over the world including Hong Kong. Cheung’s firm is flattened. Zixin’s firm suffers huge losses with the accompanying layoffs. Three years pass. Cheung has just been named the new CEO of Zixin’s firm meaning he is now her boss. Fang’s architectural career has resumed and he becomes extremely successful. In a not quite unexpected turn of events, his firm takes over the space formerly occupied by Cheung’s business. So the window flirtations are in play once more.
So in Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, we have all the key elements of a classic love triangle. On top of that it is really romantic.You start with a delightful female lead. She’s great looking, has a winning smile, a good figure, and she has a wonderfully emotive face.
Then add in two guys. Both are great. This is what is traditionally called a woman’s dream – two eminently presentable bachelors vying for her attention.
Wu’s Fang is the good guy of the male leads. He start as a ragamuffin and as we leave him early on- he’s seriously crestfallen that Zixin has stood him up. But we know he’s going to get straightened out and be back in play.
Cheung is a standard role for Louis Koo – Hong Kong’s favorite romantic lead. His third rule? All woman are up for the taking meaning that if they show an interest, he’ll be happy to play. This is what got him into trouble with Zixin in the first place. After showering her with a Maserati, and apartment to die for,
and an offer of bliss – he couldn’t bring himself to say no – as in promising to forsake all other women forever. So Koo’s Cheung begins as the cad and he’s going to change his direction too.
Poor Zixin – she’s pulled this way, and that way, and when she’ still not sure, the script has her turning in both directions again and again. The so-called dream situation is anything but. What is a girl to do? How can she decide?
The story expands out of Hong Kong to Suzhou in Mainland China (Zixin’s hometown). If anything, this film was made for the mainland market. There’s great looking people, and they go to the best restaurants, wear beautiful clothes, and look like money is never a problem
I think this film will delight western audiences as well as those in Mainland China. There’s a mixture of Cantonese, Mandarin and English spoken (plus excellent English subtitles).
The situations aren’t Chinese in their essence, but they’re the stuff that romantic comedies are made of – the film could take place in any country – only here the setting is Hong Kong and China.
It is entertaining, light-hearted, and the major plus is the most attractive actors and actresses. This is a film that can, will and does please.
Oh yes, that third kind of man? The one that doesn’t cheat and doesn’t want to cheat – you’ll need to see the film for that answer. And don’t necessarily immediately discard ‘Martian’ as the answer.