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Love on a Diet
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Bigger than life: Sammi Cheng and Andy Lau in Love on a Diet
Chinese: 瘦身男女  
Year: 2001
Director: Johnnie To Kei-Fung, Wai Ka-Fai
Writer: Wai Ka-Fai, Yau Nai-Hoi
Cast: Andy Lau Tak-Wah, Sammi Cheng Sau-Man, Rikiya Kurokawa, Asuka Higuchi, Lam Suet, Wong Tin-Lam
The Skinny: If you can get past the inherent stereotyping, then this Needing You reunion film can be a funny, enjoyable romantic comedy. Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng are easily Hong Kong's most winning screen couple.
 
Review
by Kozo:

Box-office queen Sammi Cheng is Mini-Mo, a transplanted Hong Kong resident who now makes Japan her home. Years ago she was in love with Kurokawa (Rikiya Kurokawa), a budding pianist. Their forced parting drove her to eat relentlessly and now, ten years later, she's ballooned to over three hundred pounds. Kurokawa has become a national treasure, and tours the country with Mini showing up at every concert. Too bad he can't recognize her, which drives Mini into depression.

Enter Fatty (Andy Lau), an equally overweight knife salesman who accidentally becomes Mini's friend and confidant. She hangs on to him because she feels she has nothing left, and Fatty takes to her only after he discovers that she's really a sweet girl beneath all those pounds.

Unfortunately, Kurokawa reveals his still-strong feelings for Mini on a national radio program. A long time ago, they made a mutual promise that if the two ever lost track of one another, they would meet ten years in the future at a particular place. Mini wants to meet him, but she's afraid he'll reject her current form.

Seeing Mini sink further into despair bothers Fatty, so he makes a deal with her. In the six months until she is to meet Kurokawa, he'll help her lose all that weight so she can appear before Kurokawa as the girl he once knew. It's tough going at first, but their mutual friendship brings them closer to their goal, and closer to each other.

High-concept doesn't even begin to describe the inherent commerciality of Johnnie To and Wai Ka-Fai's latest. The plot is one massive set-up for high-concept hijinks and wall-to-wall fat jokes. The jokes themselves can be difficult to stomach, as they play off the stereotype that fat is funny and slim is attractive. The script does its share to correct that view by having the stars fall in love while still overweight. However, that little PC nugget seems lost since the film portrays becoming slim as some sort of victory.

Director Johnnie To can only compensate for the film's lack of political correctness by directing the film really well. Which he does. Love on a Diet is consistently funny, and To brings all his directorial strengths to the table. The bond between the two stars is never explained in massive exposition, nor are we prodded into submission by overwhelming manipulation. No, it's all done through that rare filmmaking skill: storytelling. Johnnie To shows and doesn't tell, and the result proves beguiling and engaging. Though he leans on the fat jokes (which is unavoidable, given the premise), he still uses character and performance to win over the audience.

Of course, the big draw of this flick is seeing slim popstars Andy Lau and Sammi Cheng stuck in massive fatsuits. The makeup is admirable. The two look convincingly overweight, except for the marshmallow-like gloves used for their hands. Still, the makeup wouldn't do a thing if it weren't for the performances of the two leads, which are winning and extremely funny. In last year's Needing You, Sammi Cheng walked away with the movie's acting accolades. She's funny and engaging here, but this time it's Andy Lau who does the better job. Fatty comes off as a real person, and popstar Andy Lau disappears inside the character.

That is until the ending, when Andy Lau, slender popstar, shows up. I'm really not giving anything away since both he and Cheng appear in their slim forms on all the advertising. Having the two both go from fat to slim seems to be a sort of backhanded compliment to the overweight, but it's really hard to fault the two for whatever mixed messages occur. Sammi Cheng and Andy Lau are Hong Kong's most popular screen couple, and they bring a great chemistry to the screen that's immediately enjoyable. Audiences weren't turned off, either; Love on a Diet did an insane amount of business at the box office. (Kozo 2002)

 
Awards:

21st Annual Hong Kong Film Awards
• Winner - Best Original Song ("Beautiful for Life" sung by Sammi Cheng Sau-Man)
• Nomination - Best Picture
• Nomination - Best Director (Johnnie To Kei-Fung, Wai Ka-Fai)
• Nomination - Best Actor (Andy Lau Tak-Wah)
• Nomination - Best Actress (Sammi Cheng Sau-Man)
• Nomination - Best Screenplay (Wai Ka-Fai, Yau Nai-Hoi)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Kam & Ronson
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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image courtesy of Chinastar Entertainment Group

   
 
 
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