Are you bugged by the anti-smoking laws in most big cities – no smoking in bars, no smoking in restaurants, no smoking in your office, and in many cases, no smoking in certain outdoor areas, etc.
Due to these strictures and the vagaries of law-enforcement, smokers have to find back alleys or side streets to smoke in and this leads to people meeting unexpectedly and even forming relationships.
There was a film made about this and it was called Love In a Puff. It was released in March of 2010.
Our film review today is the sequel and it is called Love In the Buff. The time frame of this film is six months after Jimmy and Cherie had not only met and hooked up, but had begun a live-in relationship, which was now on its last legs, or said another way – the last few moments.
Our setting is Hong Kong. Cherie is played by Miriam Yeung. She’s a 30-something and she works for a big multinational cosmetics chain, Sephora. Jimmy is played by Shawn Yue, and his gig is advertising. So what’s going on with these two?
Jimmy and Cherie are long past the hot and steamy stage, are now in the stage called major disillusionment. The next to last straw is when Jimmy is out with his buddies and forgets all about the dinner Cherie arranged as a birthday party for her mother at a nice restaurant. After another bit of quality time between them is blown off by Jimmy’s working (these things happen)
and by Jimmy not calling or texting. Cherie has had enough. By the time Jimmy gets home – all that waits for him is a few cold dumplings left over from the outing and a note that is the modern day Hong Kong version of Dear John.
So Cherie is out of the relationship.
Jimmy decides to take up an offer to live and work in Beijing. So just before leaving for the airport he calls Cherie to say goodbye. Off he goes. and on the plane, he meets a cute stewardess called You-you.
Soon enough, Jimmy and You-you are an item.
Meanwhile back in Hong Kong, Cherie is now having to go back out ‘there’ – the bar and dating scene – to meet some one. She takes a lot of ribbing from her gal pals about getting older and still being alone. One day she gets called into her boss’s office. We are closing down some of the stores here in Hong Kong – but you’re good so we want to keep you on – we want you to manage a new store in Beijing for us.
It won’t be that hard to guess where Cherie is heading, and it won’t be that hard to imagine that in Beijing – a city of merely about 20 million people, Cherie and Jimmy will soon cross paths and meet.
There’s your set up. In truth, neither this film, or the first one were really about smoking. Each film is about the complexity of a relationship.
Rotten Tomatoes describes the film: Former lovers Jimmy and Cherie discover that getting over each other isn’t as easy as they thought.
Wikipedia: Five months after the events in Love in a Puff, Jimmy and Cherie face more difficulties in their romantic relationship as they split up and both individually end up in Beijing as they follow their jobs to China’s capital city, and both begin new relationships there. But despite their best efforts they can’t seem to keep away from each other.
This isn’t quite a comedy despite having some funny moments. It is also not a heavy drama that becomes a weepie. So let’s settle for the middle ground and call it a romance.
Once you get that out-of-the-way, the film unspools to its expected ending. But that’s not nothing to fret over. Directed by Pang Ho-Cheung, the film is a co-production between Mainline China’s moneyed producers and the same from the Hong Kong side. This puts Pang in the position of having to satisfy two masters, to make a commercially viable film, while straddling the fine line that is exists between the more liberal Hong Kong film making industry and the far more conservative Mainland movie industry which is governed by SARFT – State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television.
Yes, this is a true Big Brother is watching type of deal. The language is at times both explicit and crude. In one scene Cherie and Jimmy are finishing a meal. Cherie has just shown him a picture of her friend Mandy, who has had three boy friends in succession die. As Jimmy puts it – her boyfriends have a mortality rate of 100%.
Jimmy: (feigning a headache) – Your friend Mandy is a real jinx.
Jimmy: I feel dizzy just looking at her picture…
Cherie: Are you all right? You feel sick?
Jimmy: Can I be excused from doing the dishes?
Cherie: You do that all the time…
Angrily she grabs the bowl and heads for the kitchen
Jimmy: I’m not finished.
Jimmy: I want ice cream.
Jimmy: Please fetch me some ice cream.
Cherie: Go eat shit!
I offer this not as an exemplary bit of writing – but merely to show how they do things in HK. I also think this is the first we see of these two in the film and it shows distinctly that this is a relationship sliding into deep trouble.
As I said, big brother is watching, so, the sex is only implied and off-screen. Now you might think that this would place Pang in a tough position, and the answer to that is that it does. But – the film was nominated for Best Director, and Best Screenplay in the Hong Kong Film Awards given out this past spring. Miriam Yeung actually won the award for Best Actress. And Yue does well playing off Yeung. So, this is no light weight forgettable film.
Yeung is delightful. Her eyes are so expressive, and she is so good in this role. There’s a scene in a restaurant after Cherie and Jimmy, now with You-you, have all met. Cherie is out with her colleagues and they are discussing the differences between Cherie and the far young and bustier You-you. Cherie wants to hear what they have to say.
Cherie: With her bigger boobs, she’s better, right?
Colleague A: Honestly she’s a tad better
Cherie: Go on…
Colleague A: Men like women they can’t handle – you’re too easy.
Cherie: That’s true too! What else?
Colleague A: All men will be attracted to her cleavage, but in 8-10 years, her boobs will sag. You’re probably better to look at…
Colleague B: I don’t agree. Her boobs may sag, but not her youth. Even in 10 years, her boobs won’t sag that much. Let’s forget her figure and look at your face.
Colleague B: You can turn the tables on her in 10 years.
Isabel (Friend from Hong Kong) : How do you figure that?
Colleague B: A woman undergoes drastic changes from 20 to 30. Imagine a miss becoming an ‘auntie’ [being called an ‘auntie’ is not a compliment but far better than be called an old hag] That’s scary.
Wow! That’s definitely very frank, and it offers an insight about how Chinese women view aging, looks, as well as competing with other (and younger) women.
Shawn Yue is one of the biggest HK male film stars these days, and even though his character is more pathetic than hateful, he’s fun to watch here.
Mi Yang has the role of the hot stewardess. She’s a great looker and even with the narrowness of her role, she manages to shine. Sam played by Zheng Xu, who Cherie meets is older than the rest of the cast. He is a (gasp) 40-something – which in Hong Kong terms makes him almost an ‘uncle’
which is kind of a term which isn’t quite flattering, but is distinctly better than being called an old fart.
And so it goes. Cherie and Jimmy, Jimmy and Cherie – they can’t live together, and they can’t live with out each other. Pang takes them from a back alley in HK where they shared smokes to the upscale nabes of Beijing. We are along for the ride.
And despite the ups and downs, the bumps in the road, as well as a feeling of distrust of Jimmy, and a sense of admiring the very decent Sam – Cherie still has to make the call.
Three point seven five is the rating. I’ll call it a very decent movie. There may be a bunch of stuff (the cultural differences between Hong Kong and Beijing, that goes over the heads of we western viewers, but the man/woman stuff is really the same no matter what country you are in. Seeing it with what might be new faces to you, makes it all the more charming.
Finally, Love In the Buff isn’t about great, snappy one liners that are memorable, and witty. The best line came from Cherie:
– I tried so hard to break away from Jimmy Cheung, but in the end, I became another Jimmy –
Rather, we get most of our information from the faces of the actors and actresses. Pang hasn’t delivered a top rated script – even with the HK ‘Oscar’ nomination. But what he has delivered are terrific performances by his cast.
You can google for the DVD which is available on DVD from Amazon.com with a Region 3 encoding, or you can find it on eBay.