La Brassiere follows
neatly in the footsteps of Needing You, arguably
the most influential Hong Kong film of the new millennium.
While Shaolin Soccer was more commercially
successful, Needing You pioneered an amazingly
attractive filmmaking formula: pretty stars, urban
comedy, low maintenance production, big profits. The
production seems to have been upped a notch for La
Brassiere, but the other factors most definitely
follow the Needing You formula.
Chief among the similar
factors is the office setting, which is the Hong Kong
office of Sis, a renowned undergarment manufacturer.
Tokyo chief Chikako Aoyama dispenses with heavy exposition
and cuts right to the chase: Sis' Hong Kong office,
which is headed by career businesswoman Samantha (Carina
Lau), must hire two male designers to create the "world's
best bra." This hiring represents a first for
Sis as they're an entirely female staffed organization.
What's more, Samantha and chief designer Lena (Gigi
Leung) doubt that men can even get the whole bra industry.
They reason that guys only have one thing (or maybe
two things) on their mind, and that's what's behind
the bra, and not the bra itself.
They're not far off
the mark. Among the fetishists and screwy stereotype
candidates, they find Johnny (Lau Ching-Wan, playing
a character whose name approximately translates as
"rape you") and Wayne (Louis Koo). These
guys are incredibly tanned and dressed, but their
first reaction upon being hired is how many female
colleagues they can flirt with. Their male status
makes them popular among the ladies, which is great
because it doesn't seem as if they intend to do any
work at all. Lena and Samantha are less forgiving,
and eventually require our heroes to learn all about
the ins and outs of bra theory, history, production
These conditions lead
to the meat and potatoes of La Brassiere: the
comedy. In that, the film is a resounding success,
as the sight of Lau Ching-Wan and Louis Koo with makeshift
breasts is probably worth the price of admission alone.
They practice having breasts and purchasing bras in
an attempt to further their undergarment understanding.
Given the premise of the film, these scenes are the
best, as they play to the comedic talents of both
the male leads. Louis Koo lampoons his prettyboy image
to great effect, making him a much more likable comedy
lead than most HK popstars. Lau Ching-Wan has great
comic timing and a magnetic screen presence, and his
pairing with Koo is an inspired casting choice.
Matching (and even surpassing)
the guys are the ladies. Carina Lau turns in an effective
performance, but it's Gigi Leung who manages to be
charming, attractive and even inspired. Lena is haughty
and proud, but caring and ultimately vulnerable. It's
a fine showing for Leung, whose earliest work could
have marked her as talentless. Her comedic performance
here is a fine complement to her vastly improved dramatic
work (Tempting Heart, A War Named Desire).
It's great that the
performers are so engaging and entertaining, because
the movie pretty much rides them to achieve its ends.
The canny performances make the film engaging and
entertaining, which is great because the rest is far
from perfect. While possessing of a killer premise,
the actual story and execution is questionable. When
Johnny and Wayne join Sis, the film settles into some
choppy sequences which, while funny, don't add up
to more than opportunities for jokes (Patrick Tam's
cameo is a primary example). And sometimes you have
to wonder when the female employees at Sis ever work,
as it seems all they do is pay attention to Johnny
Even worse, director/writer Chan Hing-Kai's
patented existentialism takes over. The film detours
into long metaphorical discussions on how a certain
situations require certain bras, when in fact the
characters are talking about people and their relationships.
It would be great if actions could speak for words,
but simple discussion would get the job done, too.
However, when characters choose to speak to each other
through indirect metaphor (and pretty much every character
does this), it can get tiresome. It seems the writers
are too busy getting off on their own cleverness to
realize the truth: most people don't talk in metaphor.
And, underwear metaphors are sure to get you laughed
at - or even slapped.
This digging into the
world of bras eventually leads Johnny and Wayne to
confront their own issues about love, security and
what women truly want. Despite the fact that they
continue to talk in metaphors up until the very end
of the film, the journey they take is actually quite
funny and even affecting. The sentiment contained
beneath the film's oblique exposition turns out to
be rather agreeable - and you actually grow to care
for the initially chauvinistic and even unlikeable
guys. Despite what this review has said, Chan
Hing-Kai has actually been one of Hong Kong's
better writers, and his work here (with Amy Chin)
is fine. They might want to tone down the overdone
existentialism (and all the undue metaphors), but
the situations are vividly creative and funny. When
you consider the actors' exceptional performances,
the end result should be lauded rather than derided.
Ultimately, La Brassiere is more than a worthy
commercial exercise. (Kozo 2001/2002)