Marry a Rich Man

Reviewed by YTSL

In the past two years or so, there seems to have been a sea-change in Hong Kong film that stems from the majority of HKSAR cinema goers now being young females.  Beginning with the unexpected success of “Needing You...” in the summer of 2000, a plethora of lovey-dovey offerings (particularly those that are light-weight as well as -hearted in nature) have been made with them in mind and (consequently) ruled at the local box office.  Up until now, this post-teenage female (re)viewer really has not been too upset by this state of affairs.  After checking out this wanna-be fairy-taleish effort -- that I found undemanding to the point of mind numbing boredom as well as irritatingly intent on wanting to have its more-bland-than-sweet cake and eat it -- however, I fear that I may have finally encountered the fluffy piece of straw that broke this not too romantically inclined camel’s back.

This is especially so in light of my realizing that MARRY A RICH MAN -- whose title echoes the loudly expressed primary life wish of an obviously frustrated propane delivery worker who lives in the rich man-scarce boonies (and is played by Sammi Cheng) -- drew larger audiences into Hong Kong cinemas than the similarly populist but definitely more fun “Fatt Choi Spirit” and the critically lauded “Chinese Odyssey 2002” when this Vincent Kuk directed, produced and co-scripted effort went head-to-head against them during the recent (2002) Chinese New Year period.  And, yes, this is the case despite my being willing and able to recognize that the seemingly utterly consciously simple work which reunited the surely undeserved recipient of not just one but *multiple* HKFA Best Actress nominations with the boyish individual who co-starred with her in the good-looking but annoyingly vacuous “Summer Holiday” -- that I still think is Sammi Cheng and Richie Ren’s worst film -- actually is not without some merits.
For example, it’s hard not to be able to derive much pleasure from the many beautiful visuals that come by way of MARRY A RICH MAN’s cinematographer being Poon Hang Sang; this not least since the talented cameraman took ample advantage of certain of the bluntly titled offering’s scenes taking place in very picturesque parts of Milan and some others having been set in some interesting -- maybe because they haven’t been frequently photographed -- plus likely CGI-enhanced sections of Hong Kong.  In all likelihood, my appreciation of the visually -- even if not otherwise -- appealing work’s many attractive views and images was considerably enhanced by the non-DVD copy I saw of it standing a good chance of being the best quality Speedy Video (of Malaysia) effort I’ve thus far encountered.  On another presentation note:  Although it may not seem like much to some people, I also was pretty happy that the lyrics of the tuneful Sammi Cheng songs that can be heard in this music-filled movie were translated into English (Something that this largely English subtitle dependent viewer thinks should be done more often than it is).
With regards to plot construction and character development -- and maybe even performer compatibility -- however, the people behind this hardly low budget -- even if it’s damningly low concept -- work really could and should have done better.  Although some folks might think otherwise, my main problem with that which I would categorize as more of a romantic fantasy than comedy (or drama) actually lies much less with its protagonist wanting to MARRY A RICH MAN, or even with a demanding her also requiring that the wealthy man of her dreams be handsome or cute and capable of generating the kind of ‘spark’ or magical kind of chemistry that true blue romantics require from a pairing.  Instead, my chief beef with this film stems from its calculating makers appearing to feel so uncommonly obliged to cast Sammi Cheng’s potentially questionable as well as single-mindedly questing Mi character in a good light -- in addition to providing her with her choice of dream man -- that they ended up drowning the movie with the kind of too suddenly created, then just as abruptly resolvable, plus fantastically improbable scenarios that left the work feeling extremely devoid of any welcome sense of emotional tension (and subsequent exhilarating relief).

Matters probably were not helped by Mi’s choice of life partner being one that’s far more predictable and ‘safe’ than it really ought to have been.  While I realize that it might have been a controversial move in some conservative circles, I think that Candy Lo’s bi-sexual -- or was she just sexually confused? -- MT character would have been generally more useful plus fascinating if she had been allowed to be a serious suitor of Mi (rather than just her apparent best friend).  Additionally, even as things currently stand, it’s quite illuminating that the near show-stealing Jan Lamb -- whose eccentric Wilson character looks to have been primarily intended to help provide laughs rather than love -- still rather obviously generated more chemistry with MARRY A RICH MAN’s lead entertainer than the often distractingly uneasy appearing Richie Ren (who surely was disadvantaged by his getting saddled with having to speak a dialect that’s not his own -- and is so different as to be like a different, even if somewhat related, language -- as well as the rather silly character name of Christmas).

Rather than place all or even the bulk of the blame for MARRY A RICH MAN being one of the least emotionally satisfying -- never mind intellectually challenging -- movies that I’ve viewed on its scriptwriters or leading man though, I’ll hereby risk the ire of fans of Sammi Cheng by also pointing a condemnatory finger at this effort’s main female.  Indeed, I’d go so far as to state that, in the face of this performance (in which she was less than convincing -- and consequently sympathetic -- as an underdog plus average Jill type as well as confirms that she’s hardly the most natural of romantic actresses), I’ve gotten to wondering whether the HK$5 million per film star has lost her common touch as well as hitherto winning charm.

My rating for the film: 5.

I think I have to set up an appointment with my doctor – I may have turned into a 14-year-old girl! That’s the only reason I can come up with for enjoying much of this cream puff of a movie. Well that and the fact that Sammi is in nearly every frame of the film devouring it with her contagious smile and easy charm. After reading YTSL’s brutal review and other mainly negative ones on the Hong Kong Movie Database I have to question my taste – my toughness – am I just a cream puff too?
Probably yes – but this is the kind of film that I want Sammi to be making – no Days of Wine and Roses for me thank you. The Snake Pit? I don’t think so. I want my Sammi as fluffy as a freshly baked cinnamon croissant.  I want to be able to bite into it and feel nothing but sweet pleasure. So my demands with a Sammi film are minimum – give me the radiant smile from time to time – do a bit of mumbling and whining  - maybe a background song or two – a predictable and happy ending and I will be reasonably satisfied. Admittedly the film loses it’s steam in the second half and the chemistry between the two leads has the spark of a dog caught in a rainstorm – but there are some clever bits, some fun cameos and a Sammi that sparkles throughout.

Some of the other actors in the film are: Woo Fung as the father, Angela Tong as one of the three witches, Joe Cheng and Cheung Tat-ming as two of the mechanics, Mark Lui as the airline passenger and Lee Kin-Yan as the “Dance Queen”.  Now I have to figure out what 14-year-old girls do before bedtime - where's my Clearasil - who took my Hello Kitty toy - is Debbie Gibson still cool -  Ekin is so much cuter than Leon.

My rating for this film: 6.5