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L For Love, L For Lies Too
L For Love L For Lies Too (2016)

Stephy Tang discovers that L represents multiple words in L For Love, L For Lies Too.
Chinese: 失戀日  
Year: 2016  
Director: Patrick Kong  
Producer: Patrick Kong  
Writer: Patrick Kong  

Stephy Tang Lai-Yun, Louisa Mak, Louis Cheung Kai-Chung, Wilfred Lau Ho-Lung, Elaine Kam Yin-Ling, Nora Miao, Bob Lam, Jacqueline Chong Si-Man, Dominic Ho Hou-Man, Bau Hei-Jing, Sek Sau, Michelle Loo, Jumbo Tsang, Anita Chui, Tin Kai-Man, Lily Ho, Anjaylia Chan Ka-Po, Lee Ka, Connie Man Hoi-Ling, Ryan Lau, Mak Ling-Ling

The Skinny:

Somewhat more conventional outing from Patrick Kong that takes his usual cynical look at love and makes it…slightly less cynical! This is just more Patrick Kong for his devoted fans – who actually do exist, so that's something. I guess. With Stephy Tang, which is neither a surprise nor a big deal anymore.

by Kozo:

After celebrating an anniversary of sorts with last year’s, uh, Anniversary Patrick Kong returns with longtime leading lady Stephy Tang for another self-referential outing. The crappy date movie auteur’s latest opus L for Love, L for Lies Too is a sequel-in-name-only to his earlier hit L for Love, L for Lies (2008), but the two films share more than just Stephy Tang and a title. Hell, the two films share plenty with every Patrick Kong film, as nearly all of them are about modern relationships and how people lie and cheat for social power or extra nookie. Generally speaking, Kong’s views on love are exceptionally cynical and Hong Kong audiences have responded with their dollars, making his films dependable if minor hits. The filmmaking is usually crappy but the scripts themselves are smart or calculated enough to tap into a local milieu. The proof is in the box office, and Kong’s green light to keep churning them out tells you that he’s gotta be doing something right. Despite critical protest, of course.

L for Love, L for Lies Too offers more of the same – until it actually doesn’t, but I’ll get to that later. The story concerns Bo (Stephy Tang), a thirty year-old working woman who may be spreading a break-up curse. After Bo witnesses her boss (Michelle Loo) go nuts over a breakup, her pal Laura (former Miss Hong Kong Louisa Mak) sees her parents (Shek Sau and Bau Hei-Jing) separate, and Laura’s relationship may be on deck. Meanwhile, Bo suspects longtime boyfriend Sun (Wilfred Lau) may be unfaithful, and her mother (Elaine Kam) is always bitching about him. All these details are relayed thanks to long conversations and lots of screeching from the actors. As is usual with Patrick Kong, he explores topical relationship issues while overusing boring TVB-like set-ups and extensive monologuing. This is obviously lazy filmmaking – though to be fair the art direction is slightly better here than in the majority of his outings. In searching for positives, this is what I’ve found.

The movie initially follows its “Is a breakup curse spreading?” storyline but soon derails to explore a swindler club run by affable grifter Louis (Louis Cheung). He and his lackeys (Bob Lam and Jacqueline Chong) engage in moneygrubbing chicanery and inexplicably decide that Bo would be a good fit for their crew. Bo hems and haws but eventually decides to join the swindlers, while her suspicions of Sun’s infidelity start to deepen. Meanwhile, the film occasionally checks in on Laura, who’s insufferable. Her awfulness is partly due to Louisa Mak’s annoying performance, but Laura is basically a hysterical narcissist and her scenes are extremely grating. Compared to Mak, Stephy Tang comes off looking like an amazing actress, though she’s probably just learned to let others overact while she quietly nods in agreement. Tang’s acting still suffers during the crying scenes, which are as hammy as they get. The film contains many teary speeches, and most stink up the joint – including one from former Best Actress winner Bau Hei-Jing. Winning awards does not immunize you from bad screenwriting.

One actor who overcomes the script is Elaine Kam, who gets one mega-long speech where she wells up. The speech itself, your usual confession of a mother who cares too much about her daughters, is nothing special but Kam is outstanding and milks her award bait moment for all its worth. The scene is intended to bring some closure to the contentious relationship between Bo and her mother, but like everything else in the movie it seemingly gets pulled from out of nowhere. The script for L for Love, L for Lies Too starts with one idea but lurches wildly all over the place, probably to incorporate whatever new idea Patrick Kong feels like sticking in his movie. Sometimes, like with Louis’ swindler group, the ideas are nonsensical but diverting. Other times, like anything to do with Laura, the ideas are interminable and tiresome. In the end, the film doesn’t coalesce into anything significant – this is just another 110-minute (!) exercise from Kong and Tang for their built-in demographic. You should already know where you stand.

For concerned Hong Kong movie fans or those who spend too much time thinking about disposable commercial films: Patrick Kong does show some development. In L for Love, L for Lies Too, Kong employs his usual plot twists, but for a change most aren’t used to crucify love or relationships. Whereas other Kong films delivered messages like, “Ah ha! You thought that love was good, but it’s not! It still sucks despite a ten-minute make-up scene featuring a crying Stephy Tang!”, Kong flips the script by occasionally offering a positive outcome. There are still bad outcomes – certain characters are exactly who you thought they were – but thanks to more positive vibes, L for Love, L for Lies Too ends up feeling less cynical and also a bit more conventional. Well, as conventional as a movie about a working woman who’s cheated on and takes a side job working with clearly criminal swindlers can be. Patrick Kong hasn’t exactly turned the corner but hey, baby steps. Tiny, tiny baby steps. (Kozo, 4/2017)


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