The thing about characters in movies having uni-brows — that is, one long eyebrow instead of two — is that it only works if it’s not overplayed. Say, a cameo appearance by someone with a uni-brow — that will work. But when one of your lead characters sport a uni-brow for no apparent reason except to give the audience a sight gag, making her keep it for most of the movie really makes no sense whatsoever, especially when, later on, she shaves off the joining bridge without any fanfare. Um, why was it like that in the first place? Oh wait, I know. The writer thought it would be funny.
Such is the case with Hong Kong auteur Wong Jing, whose latest Romantic Comedy has Cecilia Cheung (“Lost in Time”) sporting bad teeth, braces, a disheveled appearance, and yes, that inexplicable uni-brow. “Sex and the Beauties” really isn’t a movie, but a mishmash of adaptations of premises “borrowed” from American films. The title, of course, is a play on the HBO series “Sex and the City”, and as such the movie’s many female characters narrate their own sexual encounters in voiceover.
Well, actually, calling them “sexual encounters” is a bold face lie, since Hong Kong movies basically fall into two categories: the Category III sex movies and everything else. While “Beauties” is a RomCom, the most you can expect is for characters to briefly kiss. Having said that, “Sex and the Beauties” has plenty of “beauties”, but absolutely no “sex”. “Beauties” has a large cast and the 90-minute movie spends equal amounts of screentime with each major character’s quest for love. Alas, I’m not very familiar with most of the other actors, and since credit listing for the movie (in English) is scarce, you’ll forgive me for being light on the info.
The lead is Lin, a psychologist who cures “mental disorders”, although she can’t cure her own boyfriend. Lin eventually falls in love with a reluctant gangster who pays for her time just to cry in her office. Cheung is You Di, the spoiled daughter of Lin’s ex-boyfriend, who puts her in charge of the precocious young woman while he’s away on business. You Di has an infatuation with her bodyguard Jin, who is all work and no play. Lin has friends who are also unlucky in the love game: Ni Xian, an adventurous bar owner, can’t find men who will indulge in her wild lifestyle; author Guan is falling for a younger man, but she doesn’t know how to handle it. There are others, but those four hogs the bulk of the movie’s screentime.
I have never been a fan of Wong Jing, although the last film of his that I saw, “Colour of the Truth”, did convince me he isn’t the talentless hack I thought he was. But for the most part I find his brand of humor to be childish and devoid of any actual humor. “Sex and the Beauties” seems to represent some sort of maturity for him, although considering his level of sophistication via his earlier projects, the word “maturity” is relative. That said, there isn’t anything overly objectionable with “Beauties”, which plays out mostly as a run-of-the-mill RomCom.
The only questionable joke is turning the glamorous Cecilia Cheung into a spoiled brat with uni-brow. It’s rather silly, and seeing Cheung going most of the movie with said uni-brow is just strange. As I said, gags like this shouldn’t last more than a scene or two; stretching it over an hour is, well, stretching it beyond its possible merits. Much of the film’s Third Act is spent with Lin and her gangster boyfriend, who has a reputation for being the “cruelest gangster” in the city. But it’s okay, see, because he refuses to sell drugs. Only in RomComs is this a viable excuse for working in the mob.
“Sex and the Beauties” is nothing spectacular. There are some minor chuckles to be had, and the film never really goes far enough in any of the things it attempts to become funny. As with most Wong Jing movies, some of the jokes threaten to cross the line between bad taste and just idiocy. Thankfully, there’s not too many of that here. And the soundtrack, while excruciatingly airy and harmless, could have used a break once in a while. “Sex and the Beauties” is not a very good movie, but I’ve seen a lot worst from Wong Jing.
Jing Wong (director) / Jing Wong (screenplay)
CAST: Cecilia Cheung …. You Di