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Itchy Heart

Lau Ching-Wan and Cherrie Ying in Itchy Heart.

Chinese: 七年很癢  
Year: 2004
Director: Matthew Chow Hoi-Kwong
Producer: Joe Ma Wai-Ho, Y. Y. Kong
Writer: Matthew Chow Hoi-Kwong
Cast: Lau Ching-Wan, Carina Lau Ka-Ling, Cherrie Ying Choi-Yi, Andy On Chi-Kit, Coco Chiang Yi, You Hang, Cathy Law, Lu Jie, Peng Cheng-Zhi, Lawrence Chou Chun-Wai, Hiro Hayama
The Skinny: A surprisingly enjoyable relationship comedy from director Matt Chow, who surpasses his earlier, unimpressive works. Itchy Heart isn't much more than likable, moderately thoughtful fluff with winning star turns. Still, that seems to be enough here.
by Kozo:

Sometimes Mei Ah Entertainment should have a little more faith in their product. One of their latest DVDs, the Matt Chow written-and-directed Itchy Heart, is an amiable relationship comedy which doesn't scream huge surprises. This is a rather predictable film, full of obvious setups and twists which would only be a surprise to the viewer if A) they're not really paying attention, or B) they didn't read the English-language marketing copy on the back of the DVD. Someone has to take the marketing gurus at Mei Ah Entertainment aside and give them a sound beating; the copy on the back gives away the whole plot, leaving any and all enjoyment with the film to the journey and not the outcome. Thankfully it worked out; despite being only better-than-average fluff, the film provides characters and situations that manage to entertain.

Lau Ching-Wan is Poon Chi-Man, a golfing range manager who's suddenly discovered the seven-year itch. His marriage to the stunningly gorgeous Coco Chiang has gone cold, so when she leaves town for a solo vacation, Chi-Man is excited as all hell. He ends up hitting a party at the behest of his younger, hipper cousin (Lawrence Chou in a cameo), but his older, squarer ways are firmly out of fashion with the navel-baring young things who catch his eye. Still, he finds an instant attraction to Cherry (the increasingly welcome Cherrie Ying), a free-spirited young thing who apparently digs older guys with hangdog looks. Apparently, she doesn't mind being lied to either, as Chi-Man does all sorts of obviously transparent stuff to earn her respect and affection. She sees through his act, but gains affection for him anyway. Aren't girls in the movies simply awesome?

It pours when it rains; in addition to finding a new buddy in Cherry, Chi-Man runs into his ex-girlfriend Bing (Carina Lau), who's now a successful businesswoman with a string of clubs, restaurants and stores. She's also involved with her personal trainer Will (Andy On of Black Mask 2), but it's apparent that Bing wears the pants in that relationship. The younger guy hangs on her every word and pouts like a kid when she starts to show renewed interest in the still somewhat pathetic Chi-Man. The rekindled friendship between the two ex-lovers is both a fortuitous and painful thing. Now older, the two are wiser for the years, but there's pain associated with their former life together. Some of Chi-Man's parting words had a great affect on Bing, and it's only now that he comes to realize this. Pretty soon, Chi-Man, Cherry, Bing and Will form an odd foursome of potential lovers and ex-lovers, and the time they spend together is enough to give Chi-Man some food for thought on his own life. Faced with a personal crossroads, the choices—and potential surprises—only get tougher for Chi-Man.

Director Matt Chow previously made such disposable cinematic works as Let's Sing Along, PR Girls, and most distressingly, L-O-V-E....Love. Thankfully, Itchy Heart departs from those films by managing a decent mix of cloying romance, likable characters, and obvious theorizing on a thirty-something year-old man's experiences with love and marriage. The love and marriage part is handled with the usual Hong Kong yuppie storytelling tactics of elliptical closure and easy platitudes, but thankfully Chow finds less typical ways to impact his characters' lives. Instead of obvious grand romantic gestures and too-quick realizations of what a person wants, the big affectors turn out to be time and slow maturation. Despite his sometimes unsympathetic behavior, Chi-Man is a likable man with human foibles, and watching his minor personal journey is decent fun. The platitudes doled out aren't that new or interesting, but at least they seem to make sense for the characters.

That is, when the characters actually make sense. Chi-Man does make sense, though that's partially because he's portayed by ace actor Lau Ching-Wan, who makes Chi-Man a dorky, lovable lout. Bing is likably mature and attractive, and Carina Lau brings her usual potent screen charisma to the character. Hunk Andy On fares less well as Will, as he's not given much to do besides pout and show off his buffed physique. Cherry is an even more problematic character since she's an obvious stock type, i.e. the free-spirited young girl who teaches her elders how to better manage their insecurities and past failures. She's also the fantasy of every male above the age of thirty-five, and a character which should earn Matt Chow (who also wrote the script) a "tsk tsk" from those who frown on May-December romances. Still, Cherrie Ying brings a charming energy and youthful sexiness to the character which goes a long way towards making her seem real. The character doesn't entirely convince, but that's no fault of Ying, whose burgeoning screen charm has never been less in doubt.

The likable stars are the primary reason Itchy Heart manages to entertain, as the situations and plot details are sometimes a little too cloying to really work. The past romance of Chi-Man and Bing is fleshed out via copious flashbacks, many involving the purchasing of female undergarments and the procreation of their respective pets. While some thoughtful exchanges do occur as a result, there are also obvious plot devices which are only clever if you haven't seen more than three movies. On their own, the plot and story of Itchy Heart aren't much more than moderately interesting stuff, but combined with the actors and Chow's comparatively restrained direction, the film turns out to be likable commercial enterprise. Given Chow's past filmography, as well as contemporary romantic clunkers like Sex and the Beauties, Itchy Heart qualifies as a nice little surprise. (Kozo 2004)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Mei Ah Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
"Making of" featurette

image courtesy of Mei Ah Entertainment

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