Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Women Who Flirt: Just Friends with Zhou Xun?

Considering she looks like Zhou Xun, Angie really shouldn’t have to resort to a lot of game-playing. Unfortunately, she has carried a torch for Marco, her colleague and former classmate so long, he now takes her for granted. When a flirty game-player stakes a claim to the oblivious platonic friend, Angie will have to learn how to fight fire with fire. The battle will be joined in Pang Ho-cheung’s Women Who Flirt (trailer here), which opens this Wednesday in New York.

Shocked to learn her longtime best friend is suddenly serious about a woman who is not herself, Angie calls on her eye-lash batting chum May to form a kitchen cabinet of proud Shanghai flirters to advise her. However, she finds their recommended baby talk and helpless damsel-in-distress routines absolutely vapid. She is just not equipped for this fight and her rival Hailey knows it. Still, if she can get dumb old Marco alone for a romantic getaway in Taiwan, she just might have a puncher’s chance.

Yes, there are similarities between Flirt and My Best Friend’s Wedding and its tragically romantic Chinese-Korean reconfiguration, A Wedding Invitation, but Zhou’s Angie is a protagonist we can really get behind. Her withering stares and palpable disgust at the Sex in the City antics going on around her are often quite funny and highly sympathetic. Frankly, she is just too cool for everyone else in the film.

Of course, Flirt will eventually settle into a sentimental rom-com, but at least it takes a rainy day trip to the Ju Ming Museum, which looks incredible (so good tourist tip there). In fact, Zhou and Ju are just about enough to carry the film across the finish line. Sonia Sui certainly looks like a deceptively cute femme fatale and shows some convincing claws when the time comes. Still, it is hard to see why they would fight over a blockhead like Marco, played rather woodenly by Huang Xiaoming. In contrast, Xie Yilin constantly kicks up the energy while inhaling scenery as May, the Obiwan of flirters.
Pang’s films certainly come in a variety of flavors. Instead of a naughty screwball comedy like Vulgaria, a gory satire like Dream Home, or a sensitive family drama like Aberdeen, Flirt is most closely akin to his reasonably mature rom-coms, such as Love in the Buff. It is too bad this one does not depart further from genre conventions, because Zhou and her character deserve something more outside-the-box. Regardless, she still commands the screen. Recommended for fans of Zhou and romantic comedy in general, Women Who Flirt opens this Wednesday (11/26) in New York at the AMC Empire, from China Lion Entertainment.