Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Diary (Hong Kong 2006)

There's a saying that I use a lot when I'm telling someone my thoughts on a movie. It's not something I want to say about a movie, but it happens more often than not. That saying? “It was great idea, but poorly executed.” Unfortunately, I found myself saying this again after watching Diary, the most recent psychological suspense-thriller from Thailand's hottest export Oxide Pang.

In Diary, Charlene Choi (one half of the Hong Kong super-duo Twins) stars as Winnie Leung, a seemingly harmless perfume store employee who leads a rather lonely life. Remember one sentence ago when I said “seemingly harmless”? Well the catch here is that it turns out young Winnie isn't so harmless after all. She has serious mental delusions...oh who am I kidding, the girl is crazy! Oxide Pang makes it a point from the get-go to inform the viewer that Winnie is far from the ideal of picture-perfect mental health. At times she's intently staring at things that don't seem to exist and at other times she's distracted by sounds and movements of things the viewer is unaware of. As to what these 'things' are, I shall go no further for the sake of not ruining any surprises.

She paces her tiny apartment wondering where her boyfriend Seth (Shawn Yue) has disappeared to, calling him on his cell phone (to no avail) and expressing her feelings of urgency and anxiety to her best friend (played by Isabella Leong). No matter how much Winnie tries to contact Seth, she continues to come up short...until she goes to wait for him at his job. She sees Seth coming out of the building and confronts him, but the weird thing is, Seth doesn't seem to recognize Winnie, because this guy isn't Seth, his name's Ray and the two just happen to look alike. Confused yet? It's OK if you are, because it's bound to happen sooner or later. Like I was saying, this case of mistaken identity of Ray for Seth turns into a lunch date, which eventually turns into acceptance on Winnie's part that Seth just might not be coming back. So Winnie and Ray begin seeing each other and eventually become something of an item. The relationship these two develop is anything but perfect, largely due to the fact that Winnie can't stop talking to Ray about her ex Seth. I mean seriously, what guy wants to keep hearing about his girlfriends ex-boyfriend? Winnie also, from time to time, writes in her diary (hence the movie's title) about her issues with the opposite sex and...other things. You'll see just how relevant it all is by the time the movie ends, trust me.

Now at this point you're wondering about a few things: just how mental is Winnie? Where did Seth go? Why is this story trying to do more than it's obviously capable of doing? Oh the mysteries of the universe. Sure, you'll get the answers to at least one of these questions, but once you do you'll also wonder if the wait was worth it. Oxide Pang, as most of us are aware, is a very capable director in terms of making it all look good, and he does a pretty notable job at creating some simple, yet effective environments for the small cast to work in. The problem is with the telling of the story. It's incredibly over-ambitious in what it tries to do and convey to the audience, often times feeling muddled together. More often than not, we're left wondering what exactly is going on, and not in the, “I know theres a cool twist-ending coming” kind of way either. Charlene Choi shows a side to acting chops that most of us didn't even know existed. She's incredibly believable as the clearly unstable, jittery, possibly schizophrenic Winnie Leung. Shawn Yue isn't going to win any awards with his performance as Seth/Ray. He does his job and that's about all. Isabelle Leong has a small role, providing advice and guidance for Winnie as she struggles to cope with her relationship issues. Again, nothing spectacular.

This is a tough movie to review without giving anything away, because Diary is just that kind of movie. It's all about questions and what you hope will be answers. You also know that your going to have a twist-ending that you're not supposed to see coming a mile away, and again, due to the odd method of story-telling, you probably won't. Diary is a movie with a premise that I wanted to really stand behind and enjoy, and many of you probably feel/felt the same way, but I have to close this review the same way it began: good idea, poorly executed. (Lee)

Buy Diary on DVD or VCD at YESASIA!

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