Marriage with a Liar 婚前試愛
Contemporary romantic comedy
2010, colour, 1.85:1, 85 mins
Directed by Patrick Kong (葉念琛)
By Derek Elley
Fri, 08 April 2011, 11:44 AM (HKT)
Tightly constructed rom-com makes a virtue of its modest budget and lack of star power. Asian events.
Hong Kong, the present day. After seven years, Kei-kei (Chrissie Chau) and her police detective boyfriend Chak (Him Law) are about to get married. But after a drunken hen-night four days before the wedding, Kei-kei wakes up next morning in bed with Jack (Z.O.), a Taiwanese photographer. Later in the day, while lunching with best friends Sut (Jacquelin Ch'ng) and Mung (Charmaine Fung), Kei-kei bumps into Jack again, and the four end up having dinner. Afterwards, Jack invites Kei-kei to spend the final three days of her unmarried life with him on a business trip to Macau, no strings attached. She agrees, as during the previous night she strongly suspected from a phone call that Chak was being unfaithful to her. It turns out that Chak, while at a loose end with his detective pals Keung (Timmy Hung) and Tak (King Kong) that night, had accidentally switched mobile phones with goodtime girl Bo-bo (Carol Yeung), who had answered Kei-kei's call, and by chance Chak and Bo-bo had later ended up in bed together. The next morning Bo-bo, who's fallen for Chak, suggests they spend the final three days of his unmarried life together, no strings attached. When Kei-kei and Chak finally bid their three-day lovers goodbye, they then have to decide whether they'll get married after all.
Though it has a different cast and characters, writer-director Patrick KONG 葉念琛's Marriage with a Liar 婚前試愛 (2010) is essentially a prequel to his rom-com Marriage with a Fool 獨家試愛 (2006), with Kong's pragmatic view of "true love" this time expressed through two characters' pre-marital rather than post-marital antics. Kong is a fine example of a thoroughly mainstream film-maker whose movies have as strong a thematic signature as any of his artier cousins' films, with some half-dozen titles (notably the 2008 L for Love ♥ L for Lies 我的最愛 (2008)) as well as his co-authored script for PANG Ho-cheung 彭浩翔's Men Suddenly in Black 大丈夫 (2003) purveying a comically cynical view of modern Hong Kong relationships that basically boils down to "love is all about about deceiving your partner". Marriage with a Liar is his tightest and best film yet, with a welcome change of lead actress from regular Stephy TANG 鄧麗欣 to the marginally better Chrissie CHAU 周秀娜 and a neatly constructed script that doesn't push its luck beyond a welcome 85 minutes.
Part of that conciseness may come from working for the first time with money-conscious producer WONG Jing 王晶, but it certainly benefits the movie. Whether from intention or budget constraints, the flings themselves (Kei-kei's in Macau and Chak's in his flat) are never shown and even the final wedding is only fleetingly portrayed. As a result, the film's focus stays tightly on its central theme of the characters testing their commitment rather than drifting off into a location setpiece or large ensemble gathering. Never using big-name stars, Kong's films have always been script- rather than celebrity-driven.
With its twin parallel lines of Kei-kei's and Chak's adventures, this one is his most schematic yet, and for anyone looking for auteurist touches beneath its mainstream front it's notable how it's constructed around the figure "three". The film is in three distinct acts, is grounded in the idea of a third person entering a relationship, is set during three days prior to a wedding, and frequently flashes back "three hours earlier". On a less auteurist note, it's probably the first movie to feature a special thanks to a well-known luxury condom in its end titles.
China-born, Hong Kong-based pseudo-model Chrissie Chau is way better here than in her previous Vampire Warriors 殭屍新戰士 (2010) and brings a touch of trashiness to Kei-kei that makes her character's fling believable. But it's relative newcomer Carol YEUNG Chi-yiu 楊梓瑤, a model so far celebrated only for the size of her breasts, who's the discovery of the film, making goodtime girl Bo-bo into a likable and touching figure: her farewell to Chak is so well played that Kong even shows it twice. The men are considerably weaker, with Taiwanese model Z.O. 沈志明 not much more than a pin-up as Kei-kei's fling and Hong Kong's Him LAW 羅仲謙 (See You in You Tube 愛鬥大 (2008)) only a notch or so better as Chak. Supporting performances by the leads' best friends are lively, in typical rom-com vein, and on a technical level the film is smooth without being glossy.
The Chinese title literally means Testing One's Love Before Marriage.
ContactSales: Mega-Vision Pictures, Hong Kong (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Theatrical release: Hong Kong, 23 Dec 2010.
Presented by Mega-Vision Pictures (HK). Produced by Mega-Vision Pictures (HK). Executive producer: Wong Jing. Producer: Wong Jing.
Script: Patrick Kong. Photography: Julian Cheng. Editing: Wenders Li, Mok Man-ho. Music: Tang Chi-wai, Ben Chong. Art direction: Alex Mok. Costumes: Cindy Cheung. Sound: Mak Chi-on, Yuen Ying-yip, Kinson Tsang.
Cast: Chrissie Chau (Kei-kei/Kiki), Him Law (Chak/Jerry), Carol Yeung Chi-yiu(Bo-bo), Z.O. (Jack), Jacquelin Ch'ng (Sut/Cherryl), Timmy Hung (Keung), Charmaine Fong (Mung/Mon), King Kong (Tak/Ted), Mak Mak-bau (hotel manager), Anjaylia Chan (Ann), Dada Lo (San/Sandy), Gill Mohinderpaul Singh (Indian gangster), Chan Lai-wun (Bo-bo's grandmother), Eddie Law (Jack's friend), Sunny Dai (conned customer), Courtney Wu, Karena Kwan (hotel guests).