“Sausalito” is a Hong Kong movie starring Chinese actors, but set entirely in San Francisco. The film is essentially a Romance, but not a Romantic Comedy since there’s little comedy to be had. It stars the delightful Maggie Cheung as Ellen, a single mother and cab driver who dreams of making enough money to move to Sausalito, buy a house, and live happily ever after, although she isn’t quite sure why. Hong Kong pop idol Leon Lai (“Skyline Cruisers”) stars opposite Cheung as Mike, a computer programmer involved in the whole dot.com hubbub of the late ’90s; Mike is a millionaire with too much money and not enough confidence in himself as a man.
For much of its running length, “Sausalito” is an entirely watchable movie, buoyed by the captivating talent of Maggie Cheung. The film itself is quite straightforward: our stars meet, fall in love, move in together, move out, and by movie’s end, have moved back in again. Get all that? There’s nothing groundbreaking about “Sausalito,” and in fact the movie, from beginning to end, is quite average in all categories.
In light of the fact that “Sausalito” is directed by Andrew Lau (a prolific director if there ever is one) it’s understandable that there’s nothing outstanding about it. Lau (“Dance of a Dream”) is responsible for a string of movies that possesses assembly line-like quality, and some even below that (the unabashedly terrible “Duel” comes to mind). Despite showing a wealth of camera and editing tricks, Lau retains his “averageness” here. Also, his insistence on drowning whole scenes in nondescriptive and annoyingly repetitive music does nothing to help him in the eyes of a critical viewer.
All of the above being said, “Sausalito” is worth taking a look at, even if it’s just for the sake of seeing Maggie Cheung once again show that she’s more than the material. Given the right projects (“In the Mood for Love” and even a bit role in “Ashes of Time” springs to mind) Cheung is spectacular. Even in average fare such as “Sausalito” Cheung still radiates talent beyond what is required of her. I suppose it’s cosmic injustice that there isn’t nearly enough good Hong Kong work out there for someone like her, because God knows she can certainly handle them all with one hand tied behind her back.
“Sausalito” has one incredibly idiotic plot point that just strikes me as lacking in any reason for being. This particular story idea involves Mike’s (supposedly) brilliant idea of creating an “internet global community” where people can post their paintings for others to see, communicate, etc. Note to Mike: It’s called the Internet — you know, that thing your company is built on? — and it already exists. Hell-o!
Besides the stunningly ignorant inclusion of the Mike character’s “global community” idea, Mike himself is something of a jerk. As played by Leon Lai, Mike waddles between being a total jerk, to a slightly jerky guy, to a selfish jerk. His character is completely undeserving of Cheung’s Ellen, and it’s only in movies such as these that someone like him would ever end up happily ever after with someone like her.
As Romance movies go, “Sausalito” does deliver on its promise of “true love” and all that other “love at first sight” stuff. (As you can probably guess, I’m skeptical — at best — when it comes to these particular concepts.) The film is mildly entertaining, mostly middle ground in terms of quality, and Lau’s creative camerawork is certainly inspiring, even if there is no reason for it to be present.
As a brief aside, Maggie Cheung’s English is flawless.
Andrew Lau (director) / Thirteen Chan (screenplay)
CAST: Maggie Cheung …. Ellen
Leon Lai …. Mike
Scott Leung …. Scott
Saisie M. Jang …. Mel G