“Look for a Star” has pretty much everything needed for a successful romantic comedy, with megastars Andy Lau and Shu Qi in the lead roles, an experienced director at the helm in the form of Andrew Lau of “Infernal Affairs” fame, and a picturesque setting in Macau. Add to this an impressive supporting cast (not to mention a host of industry cameos) and slick production values, and it’s no surprise that the film delivers exactly as expected, and although undemanding stuff, it makes for sugar coated, feel good genre entertainment.
Lau stars as Sam, the kind of nice guy billionaire who frequently populates the romantic comedy genre, who while on a business trip to Macau runs into Shu Qi’s croupier and nightclub dancer Milan. As is usually the case, she is completely unaware of his identity or his wealth, and so it comes as somewhat of a shock when she finds out, not least since his mother insists that she sign a pre-nuptial agreement before they can get married. Meanwhile, nice guy Sam does his best to set his minions up with partners of their own, guiding chauffeur Tim (Lam Ka Wah, “Invisible Target”) to single mother Shannon (Zhang Xinyi, “The Longest Night in Shanghai”), and career driven secretary Jo (singer Denise Ho) to honest Mainland construction works Lin Jiu (Zhang Hanyu, recently in Feng Xiaogang’s excellent “Assembly”).
“Look for a Star” works well as a romance mainly since Andy Lau and Shu Qi are both on great form and make for a cute couple, despite the fact that most of their courtship involves them talking to each other in odd kiddie-speak and making weird noises with their throats. Although broadly painted and with both stars obviously in full on quirky mode, their characters are likeable, and it’s hard not to wish them their inevitable happy ending. The film does throw a few obstacles in their way, though thankfully Lau never attempts to play things too seriously, even during the latter stages when the pre-nuptial agreement rears its ugly head. Indeed, the film as a whole benefits from being light, fairy tale style fun, with a genuine and infectious sense that everyone involved was enjoying themselves immensely.
Interestingly, whilst their budding relationship takes centre stage, the coupling of Lin Jiu and Jo is arguably handled with more depth, dealing more overtly with the class divide issue. Similarly, the romance between Tim and Shannon is also possibly more interesting than that of the central couple, being hampered by her being a single mother and his stubborn male pride. The attention Lau pays to the supporting cast and their subplots is rewarding, as it provides the film with a solid emotional core, and prevents it from becoming too flighty. Of course, by offering viewers three romances for the price of one, the film wisely spreads its bets, and ensures that it keeps the love flowing at all times. This certainly helps to distract from the inherently predictable plot and the odd developments that screenwriter Yuen uses to bring things together, with the television show finale seemingly being pasted in from another film entirely.
In terms of comedy, the film is gently amusing throughout despite only having a few real laugh-out-loud moments, most of which involve Lau clowning around. The humour is mostly wordplay, and in this respect the script is reasonably sharp, though is not above throwing in the odd bit of slapstick. The film also features a return to the old 1980s favourite of boob jokes, with lots of gags involving Denise Ho either being mistaken for a man or getting drunk and having trouble with a pair of breast enhancers. Even though pretty much every member of the cast manages to make a crack about the subject, the film is never crude or mean-spirited thanks to Lau’s slick handling. Some of the plot contrivances and emotional miscues also add to the fun with inadvertent laughter, for example with regards to Lin Jiu, whose painful earnestness at times borders on parody, and whose bizarre obsession with a champagne glass left behind by Jo leads to countless shots of him staring at it wistfully, drinking tea from it or even painting it into a mural.
As a result, as a romantic comedy that provides both in generous measures, along with a nice line in wish-fulfilment, it’s hard to fault “Look for a Star”. Amiable and engaging throughout with its all star cast giving fans exactly what they want, it benefits hugely from never taking itself too seriously, and stands as a perfect piece of cheerfully lightweight popcorn entertainment.
Wai-keung Lau (director) / Cindy Tang, James Yuen, Koon-nam Lui (screenplay)
CAST: Andy Lau … Sam Ching
Qi Shu … Milan Sit
David Chiang … Uncle
Wing Lim Cho
Maria Cordero … Auntie