Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ex (Hong Kong 2010)

Question: when a movie feels a lot longer than it's actual running time, does that mean you're not enjoying it? Yes, that's a rhetorical question because the answer is fairly obvious. For me, Ex (前度) was such a movie, one that emphasizes the old expression that you don't know what you've got until it's gone. I had a tough time with this one.

Zhou Yi (Gillian Chung), is a young woman with her hand in one too many cookie jars. She has a boyfriend, Woody (Lawrence Chou), that she's planning a trip with until she finds out, at the airport, that he shared some intimate moments with another woman. The two begin arguing in front of another couple, Ping (William Chan), and Cee (Michelle Wai), and through sheer coincidence, Ping just so happens to be Zhou Yi's ex. Let's not try and explore how that possibility is near absurd. This is a movie after all. Cee, trying to be the nice one in this group, sticks up for Zhou Yi and offers her a ride. Ping is in the backseat wondering how this all came to be while his ex and current girlfriend sit in the front talking about his bad habits. How's that for an awkward car ride? Zhou Yi reaches out to some friends and family for a place to crash, as she no longer has a place of her own, but she ends up having no place to go. Going even further out on that limb of generosity, Cee and Ping agree to let her stay at Ping's place for a few days until she can sort something out. Zhou Yi wastes no time making herself at home in Ping's flat and it's clear that Cee isn't as comfortable with her staying there as we may have thought. She can see the closeness that Ping and Zhou Yi once shared and is starting to feel that the two of them haven't fully moved on. During her time in Ping's flat, Zhou Yi and her ex talk about the good ol' times and the not-so-good of times they had together. Zhou Yi talks about the various guys she spent time with after Ping, including the aforementioned Woody, a triad bad-boy (Jacky Heung), and Sol (Derek Tsang), a nice guy cab driver that's actually friendly with Ping. Sure, she's a bit promiscuous, but I guess you sometimes have to see what else is on offer before you realize what you wanted was right in front of you all along. During this short time of being back together under the same roof, feelings for one another begin to rekindle but it's not just the two of them anymore. Are Ping and Zhou Yi really as good for each other as they think?

There are a lot of stories going on in Ex as Zhou Yi recounts her tales of past loves through the fun of flashbacks. I don't mind a movie using flashbacks to fill me in on various important little bits of information, but as a major story-telling piece where I'm constantly being taken back to specific moments in time, well that becomes a bit tiresome for me. Add to that the fact that every time we go back in time, Zhou Yi has a different hairstyle, a couple of which look like wigs, and Ping has a different hairstyle and style of glasses each time. I understand that it's the past due to me actually paying attention to the story, so I find the poorly done costume props distracting. I will say that the performances were quite good and Gillian Chung in particular proved that she's more than just a pop-star turned wannabe actress. I found her character to be really obnoxious at first but once you discover why she is the way she is, it makes sense. This girl has been through the emotionally wringer and Chung does a nice job at conveying that rollercoaster of emotion. The director, Heiward Mak, does a nice job making everything look good. He clearly has a sharp eye, but there are occasions where things get a little too artsy for their own good, leaving an air of pretentiousness hanging. Ex is reasonable in length at only an hour and thirty-six minutes, but I have to question the director's pacing, as the story seemed to drag on and on. A movie this short shouldn't feel this long.

A near mixed-bag with more bad than good, Ex is a movie that gets points for effort but isn't getting a free pass due to poor execution. There's a slick sheen on the proceedings and it's not a complete misfire, but as it all unfolds you're ultimately left unimpressed and even slightly bored. (Lee)

Grade: C

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