22 September 2005 | Adorable
Absinthe But Not Absent
If it wasn't for the calendar right next to my computer everything would seem like back in wonderful 1992. Whacky romantic comedy standards, bubbly chic, haughtily evil Putonghua speakers and egotistical Westerners. Why, there's even a schmaltzy Mandopop moment to floor your hearts with nostalgic joy.
Not surprising as a product from Mr. Derek Yee, craftsman behind earlier classic One Nite in Mongkok. Yee has a gift, his movies always make Hong Kong look good and brimming with a sense of place that real-life residents find endearing as they don't always see it the same way actually living there. Furthermore, a typically stolid cast of characters, especially those in support of main protagonists, imbue Drink, Drank, Drunk with its layers of fun and eccentricity, without which it may have ended up an OK but ho hum comedy romp.
DDD has been getting PR of the sort usually reserved for brainless fodder, understandable in light of its summery release and the kind of audiences distributors are going for. However, it's very much akin to Crazy n the City of a few months ago in that there's so much more here than meets the eye, with the gaudy comedic thrills working magically en route to one of the better motion pictures of the year thus far.
Although awash with blatant product placement (especially Budweiser), DDD transpires to be a superb feel good movie full of wit and charm, as well as whole-blooded, cynical laughs that, for a change, work. It stars Miriam Yeung and Daniel Wu together again, re-enacting their old magic from those heady Love Undercover days. The pair has good chemistry, and it's put to great use throughout, with Yeung's natural affinity for humor tuning effortlessly to Wu's diverse range of macho-sensitive capabilities.
Yeung does Siu Min, a Bud booster trawling the city's bar and restaurant areas along with ditzy co-workers Toby and Rene. Their lot is a happy but uneasy one, facing rival beer grrrls and the ever present search for good men. Siu Min, on the other hand, has given up trying to pinpoint her chevalier, raising concerns among friends regarding her sexual orientation. Speaking of friends, we have quite the entourage on hand, including satisfying performances by Vincent Kok as Yeung's decidedly gay employer and Stephen Fong, again sporting his by now obligatory facial hair. Fong plays Brother Nine, the local triad boss and Siu Min's protector, who's also keen on seeing her married off to some unsuspecting victim.
As a capper, Siu Min's notorious for her immunity to alcohol. She can put them away at no risk, something that can't be said for sentiment. When she meets rolling stone Michael (Wu), Siu Min soon develops a dependence and the two fall for each other. Wu performs well, too. His character, a vagabond French chef with huge dreams and a knack for whipping up the most excruciatingly bizarre cuisine, teams up with Siu Min as they build a professional and personal relationship, much to the puzzlement of those around them.
Later on, temptation arrives via one of Michael's sojourning buddies, tempting him to relinquish the urbane existence he'd forged with Siu Min and head back down the endless road of adventure. And before you know it, a super-wealthy, attractive female entrepreneur sets her sights on Michael both romantically and as management for her chain of ultra pricey outlets. This adds turbulence to our antic lovers' steadfast course, but needless to say there's hope yet.
On the face of it, DDD may seem not too special. Having said that, it feels more like a genuine HK product than anything we've seen over the season so far, and despite its mainstream accoutrements possesses a free-wheeling spirit fit for a release much more critical-indie by nature. Gags and jokes present good writing and an eye for ridiculing the contemporary rather than the bland, while Yee's pacing remains intact: there's hardly a slow or boring moment. The cast carries out respective roles with confidence, as we get a slew of classic fixtures that have served this genre faithfully for decades, from bitchy beauties to rough but ludicrous mobsters and senile old grannies at street corners.
Those hankering for a slice of what Hong Kong romantic comedies used to be like before the city's movie industry began atrophying will immediately realize Drink Drank Drunk provides more than an ample glance. It's funny, apt and nicely executed.
Rating: * * * *