Family Affairs (HK 1994)

Rating: ***
Review Date: 10/5/13
Cast: Kenny Ho, Vivian Chow, cameos by Karen Mok, Ben Lam

I loathe romantic comedies, which puts me in a bind because that's where many of my favorite actresses do most of their work. So it should come as no surprise that the only reason I would consider bothering with this film is because it features the lovely Vivian Chow. Big But (Kenny Ho) is an irresponsible philanderer who works as a salesman for his father's bra factory. Cha (Vivian Chow) is his adoring and untainted girlfriend who is struggling to break into the music industry, while quietly suffering through Big But's womanizing behavior in the hopes that he'll eventually settle down and marry her. The film primarily revolves around the But family coming apart at the seams, as Little But runs away from home to live with Big But, and Mrs. But threatens divorce because the stubborn Mr. But has disowned and fired his two sons and is trying to sell the family business. But the real crisis comes when Cha loses her singing contract, and in a moment of anger and despair she agrees to get naked in an adult film to try and boost her career. This brings all of the Buts together in an attempt to stop her, with predictable results.

While it's definitely not to my liking, it's a good looking and well made film, and the acting is quite good. The actor who plays Mr. But gives an excellent and surprisingly moving performance, and I was surprised to see Kenny Ho as a romantic lead, since my only exposure to him has been as a kung fu stuntman. Vivian Chow is utterly delightful and is an undisputed expert at looking uncomfortable and forlorn. Her reluctant beauty is intoxicating, and her frustrations and inner conflicts are frightfully tangible. She also glows with domestic satisfaction in the moments where she's playing housewife. It's just unfortunate that her wardrobe is a bit unflattering. Her climactic kiss with Ho is also painfully awkward, which ends the film on an uncomfortable note. The writing is tolerable, and neither the comedy or the drama are completely cringe inducing. However, the majority of the subtitles are illegible, so I missed out on a lot of what was happening (which may have worked in my favor).