GIMME GIMME



Reviewed by YTSL

From the 24th Hong Kong International Film Festival’s “1999-2000 Hong Kong Panorama” (The Hong Kong Leisure and Cultural Services Department, 2000:19):-
Interviewer Sam Ho:  “You were an outsider all your life, growing up in South Africa, studying in Hong Kong and then the U.S.  And your best films are docudramas with outsider perspectives.  A result of that experience?”
Director Lawrence Ah Mon (AKA Lawrence Lau):  “I think definitely.  I didn’t grow up in Hong Kong and I don’t belong to those worlds.  You can say I’m a voyeur, trying to understand society through exploration.  It’s also practical, because the life around me is not interesting and this is the only way for me to understand other lifestyles.”

Thus far, I’ve only viewed four of Lawrence Ah Mon’s celluloid offerings (For the record, these are: “Queen of Temple Street”, a prostitute drama that features great performances from Sylvia Chang and Rain Lau; “Three Summers”, set in the Lantau Island fishing village of Tai O and its environs; “Spacked Out”, a documentary like work which centers on the activities of five young female live-wires; and GIMME GIMME, another social dramatic effort whose seven main teen-aged characters all struggle with understanding and appreciating the joys and burdens of young love and true friendship).  However, doing so has served to convince me that as long as individuals like him continue to be a part of the HKSAR’s film industry, hope and humanity will be resident in their world and products.  My reason for stating this stems in large part from this (currently, as of 2001) 42 year old Pretoria-born auteur’s ability to people his movies with realistic appearing -- and acting -- characters and cast a strong, yet far from overly harsh, light on the kind of folks that would be easily dismissed by less tolerant others as delinquent or low-life scum.

Five of GIMME GIMME’s primary characters -- Lobo, Skid, Soda (whose can be heard being less generically referred to as Sarsi, the name of a popular sarsaparilla flavored drink in Hong Kong and elsewhere in South-East Asia), Fion and Suki – are fast friends who all attend the same mixed-gender secondary school.  Not only do they stand apart from “the establishment” because of their being restless and not particularly conventionally attired and coifed – Fion has bright orange hair, Skid has two ring-filled holes in one of his earlobes, Soda’s head is almost but not entirely shaven -- teenagers but they also are the offspring of the less moneyed members of society, one of whom is a man jailed on corruption charges.  While they seem more law-abiding than the younger lead personalities of Lawrence Ah Mon’s edgier feeling “Spacked Out”,  Lobo and co. are not adverse to doing such as publicly tease and embarrass others in the name of fun (e.g., when they play a “pick up” game that involves their going up to same and different gendered strangers and pretending to be interested in asking them out for a date) or lifting a few hundred dollar notes from the wallets and purses of their parents to finance their karaoke sessions, rave party and other jaunts.
Although Pat (or Siu Pak, as she is also referred to) looks more clean-cut than the group -- from a different school but who are co-users of a sports practice area -- that she befriends, she is soon shown to be no complete innocent or saint herself.  However, this is not at all to say that they are particularly dishonorable and unruly youth.  Indeed, upon witnessing the emotional support they easily give one another and hearing the kind of sage advice that they share (e.g., “it’s no use to work on something that’s not working” and “learn to treasure your girlfriend” along with a girl’s needing to be showered with attention, gifts, compliments and devotion), this (re)viewer could readily see the good in each and everyone of GIMME GIMME’s not entirely untroubled characters plus understand why it is that each member of this social group would value the friendship and company of the others in it.
As seems to be the wont and habit of more than just teenagers though, GIMME GIMME’s main personalities are often much more astute at dispensing advice to -- and mediating between -- their friends and their friends’ lovers than conducting their own affairs and dealing with their own needs.  Inevitably, this leads to the existence of love triangles in their lives along with some two, triple and more timing of “pang yau” (a word in Cantonese that translates as friend but can carry stronger connotations than that).  In an age and a territory where cellular phones abound and long-distance travel is something many people do, relationships and the quest to find – plus keep -- true love can be very far flung as well as complicated.  Despite some questioning of “why be so serious at our age?” and assertions that “it’s just a game”, even the coolest personae find themselves becoming emotional victims of love rather than just their hormones.
It is a major testament to Lawrence Ah Mon’s masterful direction, Tse Loh Sze’s sensitive script and the film’s talented newcomer cast (who include Chui Tin Yue as Lobo, Yoky Lo as Fion, Yoyo Chan Chi Yiu as Pat, Shiu Yu Wa and Yorky Yuen Cheuk Wai), that this person – who doesn’t usually watch teenage romance movies – got so into GIMME GIMME and as involved as she did in the concerns of Lobo, Pat, Skid, Fion, Soda and Mo along with the last named individual’s sometime boyfriend, Ken.  Although I am neither a teenager nor a known romantic, I don’t think I would be remiss in stating that this surely far from big budget work seems to be a very genuine and authentic, and therefore moving, cinematic study of the lives of some not particularly atypical Hong Kong youth.   Like with Mr. Ah Mon’s first Milkyway Image production (“Spacked Out”), this second one -- in as many years -- is a surprisingly affecting – yet not at all humorless – effort that I’m very glad to see the likes of producer Johnnie To having lent his support to bring to fruition.

My rating for this film:  7.5