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
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
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)