11 June 2001 | galensaysyes
Plenty of Yeoh, but wanted more
This movie is almost all Michelle Yeoh, whom I--and, I imagine, most males--enjoy seeing in almost anything. Here for once she is playing a character devoid of glamour and fantasy, and presumably not far different from herself, except in being unlucky, unhappy, unknown, and unappreciated.
It is difficult for me to imagine Ms. Yeoh, even at her youngest and most inexperienced, as having been shy and skittish around a man she liked, or easily led. Otherwise she is convincing and, as always, attractive and likable. But there is one thing I find missing from her performance, as from all her performances, which is made all the clearer in this down-to-earth milieu: her character is never knowable. You don't get to see far down into her, to find out who she is and how she got that way. True, the lack is as much in the script as in the performance, but most actors are able to fill in the spaces in the scripts. Why is the character in this film a stunt woman? Why does she stay a stunt woman? How does she feel about the other characters--her roommate, her director, or the director's son? Her attitude toward life is that of most of Ms. Yeoh's characters: glum resignation, and with good reason; her attitude toward people is one of detached tolerance, generally benevolent but impatient, as if she were an aunt who happened also to be a queen or some supernatural entity (this works best in martial-arts fantasies where the character IS a supernatural entity).
Ms. Yeoh aside, I thought the film a rather interesting treatment of a rather uninteresting story, and was particularly interested that it acknowledged the criminal aspect of the film industry in Hong Kong. But I wished the processes of movie-making and the on-set relationships had been shown in more detail, and that the melodramatics near the end had been avoided, being out of key in a relatively realistic story.