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Love Connected
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Stephy Tang and Justin Lo in Love Connected     Sammy and Celina Jade in Love Connected

(left) Stephy Tang and Justin Lo, and (right) Sammy and Celina Jade in Love Connected.
Chinese: 保持愛你  
Year: 2009  
Director: Patrick Kong  
Writer: Patrick Kong  
Cast: Stephy Tang Lai-Yun, Justin Lo, Kay Tse, Joey Leung Cho-Yiu, Sammy, Miki Yeung Oi-Gan, Chelsea Tong So-Kei, Terry Wu Ching-Nam, G.E.M., Donald Tong Kim-Hong, Siu Yeah-Jim, Celina Jade, Siu Fei, Toby Leung Ching-Kei, Marie Zhuge, Katy Kung Ka-Yan, Kayle Kwan Ji-Tung, Venus Wong Man-Yik
The Skinny: Patrick Kong is back with not just one, but five musings on love. Even with new tricks like happy endings and subtler storytelling, Love Connected is an overstuffed package of old themes and situations that Kong has used over the years. But the more he puts in his film, the less he has to say. Could this be the end of Patrick Kong?
by Kevin Ma:

Since 2006, writer-director Patrick Kong has been terrorizing aspiring young Hong Kong romantics with pessimistic tales of love such as Marriage with a Fool, Love Is Not All Around and even the 2008 horror film Forgive and Forget. In Kong's world, there's always some kind of deception going on when it comes to matters of the heart, and his ideas have connected enough with the absurd reality of Hong Kong youths that it's kept him constantly working. This year, he offers a small olive branch with Love Connected, a crowded ensemble piece with five tales of love all taking place one Valentine's Day. Vintage Patrick Kong devices like the wannabe clever surprise twist and wordy realizations are still present, but he also offers things like subtle characterization and happy endings this time around. The problem is that Kong is still not a very good filmmaker, and the more worn-out themes he throws into his script, the less he has to say.

Bookending this crowded film is the tale of Bo (Kong favorite Stephy Tang), an introverted flower shop girl who attracts the attention of mall singer Wai (fellow Gold Label star Justin Lo). When he decides to make a move and hands her his CD, she returns it in a fit of anger. And when Wai tries to ask for an explanation, Bo simply tells him to leave repeatedly with no other explanation. Bo obviously has a secret, and Kong has no problem milking for all it's worth. While he doesn't resort for the clever twist here, it results in cheesy moments to try and insert some kind of worthwhile emotions into a thinly-developed plot. However, there are no characters here, just two barely-sketched archetypes of nice people.

Slightly better developed is Bo's boss, Fong, played by pop star Kay Tse in her first film role. Fong and her boyfriend Joey (stage actor Joey Leung) once made a happy couple and were destined for a happily ever after with a shared bank account and a big house. However, Joey's stocks have gone bust, and growing older has apparently turned him into an arrogant jerk. No longer together, the two meet to settle things before Joey goes off to South Africa for new opportunities. While nothing dramatic really happens here, Kong's relatively subtle handling of the couple's final moments does hit some kind of poignancy. However, his handling of the characters are not entirely believable, with Joey becoming such a jerk that one wonders why Fong would ever bother to attempt any kind of reconciliation with him.

Kong also brings the same thin characterization and contrived situations to the comedic stories. Serial dater Fai (Sammy) is trying to arrange dates with multiple girls under the guise of having a twin brother. It all goes to hell when his first date with a flight attendant (Celina Jade) unexpectedly overlaps with his next date, causing him to run around the same mall without having the girls run into each other. Despite the seeds planted for a full-on farce, the comic potential of the story gives way to another annoyingly over-the-top performance by Sammy and a ham-fisted ending that tries to make some kind of emotional impact with the characters' dubious intentions.

The same goes for what is easily the most annoying plot thread of the five: Tiger and Dragon (very annoyingly played by radio personality duo I Love You Boyz) manage to score a Valentine's date with a girl nicknamed Goldfish. After some lame jokes about her possibly being Filipino, Goldfish amazingly turns out to be a skimpily-dressed Miki Yeung, who teases the boys with her portable sauna and bets that involve stripping. The over-the-top silliness of the story and I Love You Boyz's antics take annoying comedy to a whole new level, as Kong provides no direction to tone down any of the actors. The result is an inept attempt at mo lei tau comedy that grates rather than tickles.

And of course, what would be a Patrick Kong film without a relationship with an unconventional and supposedly modern twist? In L for Love, L for Lies, a couple becomes "back-up lovers", which is just an immature take on friends with benefits. Here, Kong introduces an underground office romance with Fung (Terry Hu, one half of the backup lovers in L for Love) and Debbie (Chelsea Tong). To prove that Fung is the real deal, Debbie requires Fung to undergo a three-month probation period, in which they date without any of the physical acts of a typical couple, with Debbie keeping score on a daily basis. But will they be able to survive the day of the probation under the watchful eyes of gossiping co-workers and a vengeful boss (Toby Leung)? From the exaggerated characterizations (you know exaggeration is a problem when Siu Fei is not the biggest overactor of the story) to the stupidity of the basic idea to the tacked-on Kong-style twist ending, this story essentially fails on all counts.

If all of this sounds like it can't possibly happen in one day, that's because it doesn't. Kong tries to hide the truth that nothing really happens in the main timeframe of his stories by employing extensive flashbacks, even going as far as flashing back to things that only happened ten minutes ago. Even though his intended audience is attention-deficient local youths, Kong shouldn't undermine them with obvious verbal realizations and constant reminders of things past. Kong show all the messages in forgettable voiceovers in the beginning and ending of the film that sum up all these stories in forgettable quotes that aren't even subtitled in English. These may all sound good on paper as an economic way for a screenwriter to pack five stories' worth of meaning into one film, but it's a patronizing technique that further suggests Kong's laziness as a director.

By grouping all his stories into a best-of package in Love Connected, Kong has stretched himself even thinner than before, and the more he packs into the movie, the less resonance the stories have on the audience. Nevertheless, just from the constant changes of perspective, Love Connected still entertains at a brisk pace with a local flavor that can only be found nowadays in these Gold Label teen films. It doesn't necessarily make for a good film, but this is what represents Hong Kong Cinema for those who don't want their films censored or in Mandarin. Sadly, that may also be because the film doesn't really say anything that anyone outside its target audience would care about. Even sadder, Love Connected is so contrived and redundant that it doesn't say anything that even his target audience would care about. (Kevin Ma, 2009)


• Kozo's mini-review of Love Connected can be found here.

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Gold Typhoon
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
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image courtesy of Gold Label

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