Director: Stanley Kwan
Cast: Sammi Cheng, Gigi Leung, Bai Baihe
RunTime: 1 hr 40 mins
Rating: NC16 (Some Mature Content)
Opening Day: 7 December 2018 (Southeast Asian premiere at the 29th Singapore International Film Festival)
Synopsis: Yuan Xiuling, a star past her prime, plans a return to the spotlight a year after her philandering husband passes away. An opportunity arises when she is cast as the lead in a theatre production titled Two Sisters. However, her co-lead is her biggest rival, He Yuwen, a rising actress making her theatrical debut. In the week before opening night, tensions rise and tempers flare. The actresses struggle to cope with artistic expectations, jostle for media attention, and let past resentments and grievances rise to the surface.
Everyone loves a good catfight. In showbiz, rivaling actors and actresses are probably very common. Seeing this drama get translated on screen is a sure way to get viewers interested. With his latest work, Hong Kong director Stanley Kwan (Everlasting Regret) not only made us sit up and watch the characters bicker, he also made a film that showcases the layered personalities of these characters.
Taking place over seven days during the rehearsals before the opening night of a highly publicised play, the film looks at how eight women’s lives intertwine. There is gossip, there is ambition, and there is definitely lots of jealousy going on around during the 100 minute film.
The literal Chinese translation of the movie title is “eight women and one show”, and it shows Kwan’s bold goal to squeeze eight characters’ stories into one film. The stars of the play are a former star (Sammi Cheng) stepping out of semi retirement for a theatre role, and her arch enemy (Gigi Leung) who is up and coming with her modern attitude. In the mix is also a Shanghai millionaire funding the production (Angie Chiu), the play’s transgender writer director (Kam Kwok Leung), a gossipy theatre manager (Kiki Sheung), a very cool and loaded lesbian bachelorette (Bai Baihe), and the two capable assistants of the actresses (Catherine Chau and Qi Xi).
While not all eight characters are given the same weightage in the film (it is headlined by Cheng and Leung, two Hong Kongsinger actresses who champed the industry during 1990s and 2000s), the screenplay by Jimmy Ngai still manages to make viewers empathise with most of them. Chiu’s intention to stage the play at Hong Kong’s iconic City Hall is a good reason to feel nostalgic, Kam’s campy theatre practitioner has some of the film’s funniest lines, while Chau and Xi’s supporting roles will have you appreciating the people around you more.
Of course, all eyes will be on Cheng and Leung. Cheng exudes an exquisite charm which comes with her years of experience in showbiz. No longer an actress acing romantic comedies (Blind Detective, Love Contractually), the actress has earned her own standing in dramas. Leung (Aberdeen, Monkey King Part 3) has the more expressive role here, and she takes every opportunity to show viewers she is not just a pretty face. We hope the two actresses get some recognition at film awards.
The film is also gorgeous to look at, thanks to Wang Boxue’s cinematography. Many scenes take place inside the theatre, which is a good location to use mirrors, stage effects and good looking actresses rehearsing their lines. Attentive viewers will also spot some similarities between this film and Kwan’s beloved Rogue (1988) starring the late Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui, two dearly missed Hong Kongicons.
This is a love letter to Hong Kong, with some scenes showcasing the city’s beautiful VictoriaHarbouras a backdrop. It is a reflection of Hong Kong’s showbiz where drama is all around, and as long as the curtains don’t drop, the show will go on.
(Sammi Cheng and Gigi Leung shine and deliver their career best in this love letter to Hong Kong)
Review by John Li