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The Truth About Beauty

Bai Baihe discovers The Truth About Beauty.
Chinese: 整容日記  
Year: 2014  
Director: Aubrey Lam Oi-Wah
Producer: Peter Chan Ho-Sun
  Writer: Aubrey Lam Oi-Wah

Bai Baihe, Ronald Cheng Chung-Kei, Zhang Yao, Guo Jingfei

The Skinny: Plastic surgery-themed romcom/satire that's as distasteful as it is directionless. Bai Baihe and Ronald Cheng are fine performers but not in this film. Actual plastic surgery is probably not preferable to a viewing of The Truth About Beauty, though the difference may be too close to call.
by Kozo:
Bai Baihe plays ugly and unlikable for The Truth About Beauty, a confused and sometimes distasteful romcom from writer-director Aubrey Lam (Twelve Nights). Bai stars as Guo Jing, a top student in her class who thinks she isn’t getting any breaks because of her plain looks. The solution: cosmetic surgery, starting with double eyelid surgery and continuing with a nose job, a new chin and ultimately new breasts. Simultaneously, Guo Jing earns promotions in her company and gets into position to chase her desired guy, Raymond (Ronald Cheng), a senior executive who’s a pretty decent guy and is friendly with the ladies despite looking like Ronald Cheng. Alas, at a romantic dinner, Raymond tells Guo Jing that he despises any woman who would use plastic surgery to change her looks. Will Guo Jing still be able to nab her man despite her cosmetic chicanery? Or will she and Raymond learn that beauty is really found on the inside?

Honestly, it’s hard to figure out exactly what lessons Guo Jing and indeed the viewer is supposed to learn. Truth About Beauty is told largely through voiceover from Guo Jing, as she observes the barriers that society places on unattractive people and decides to trump them via a rhinoplasty and other procedures. However, there’s little outrage or emotion in her voice, making it hard to pin down what sort of a person Guo Jing is. Does she view this glass ceiling as a negative, and if so, why does she choose to become complicit in it? Aubrey Lam’s script vacillates between satirizing and moralizing about its subject matter, with the final message being something akin to “meh”. For example, Guo Jing’s friend Weiwei (Zhang Yao) becomes a cosmetic surgery addict, the sight of which is ultimately pathetic and disturbing, but it’s only touched upon in passing and doesn’t seem to factor into the film’s ending. Hell, we never even see Guo Jing react to Weiwei’s addiction because that, too, is shown in voiceover.

Instead of digging deeper into surgical shenanigans, The Truth About Beauty ends with your standard romantic moment, albeit with a plastic surgery twist that’s supposed to be funny. Yawn. It’s hard to care what happens here because the characters never become likable. Ronald Cheng is fine (though hurt by his Mandarin dubbing), and Bai Baihe is a romcom ace, but neither makes their romance compelling. The abundant voiceover is a problem, and is compounded by poor pacing. Hell, the film even lacks standard manufactured plot devices to give it some sense of urgency. There are many moments – a return to Guo Jing’s village, Weiwei’s addiction – where the film can take a stand, but that never occurs. This is an all-around disappointment; Aubrey Lam may not inspire great things, but the producer is Peter freaking Chan. As is, this is a mildly interesting and inconclusive look at vain people with vain lives. But that might just be me being dismissive. Maybe the truth about Truth About Beauty is really in the eye of the beholder. Or maybe this is just a bad movie. (Kozo, 8/2014)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Edko Films Ltd. (HK)
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
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