Thursday, June 23, 2016

NYAFF ’16: Lazy Hazy Crazy

Despite its intentions, this film will make any man over twenty-one feel like a creepy “uncle.” In this context, an uncle is not just an older man. They are clients of the two part-time high school prostitutes. There will be plenty of voyeuristic opportunities, but there are also very real emotions underlying Luk Yee-sum’s Lazy Hazy Crazy (trailer here), which screens during the 2016 New York Asian Film Festival.

Initially, Chloe and the Malaysian Alice consider each other rivals, but they eventually bond over their shared experiences as after-school Uncle-daters. Their third friend Tracy clearly feels intimidated by their superior sexual confidence, but she is still reluctant to join them in the uncle business. Tracy’s inferiority complex is always a factor in their joint friendships, even when the three girls become de facto roommates, moving into Alice’s flat.

Parents are even scarcer in LHC than in your typical John Hughes movie. Alice’s father has been working in Thailand indefinitely, leaving her on her own to pay the rent, so what does he expect? Tracy still has her grandmother, but that relationship is problematic. Frankly, the after-school prostitution is presented as a reasonable economic decision for the girls, but it eventually causes scandal within their judgmental high school social circle. Yet, Luk always makes it clear this is not an isolated phenomenon only affecting Chloe, Alice, and maybe eventually Tracy, bu a wider real world trend.

At times, LHC is uncomfortably frank, especially considering its characters’ youth, yet it always feels more honest and serious than Eva Husson’s sensationalistic Gallic teens run amok. Everything Tracy, Chloe, and Alice do can be logically attributed to hormonal confusion and a lack of parental structure. The girls’ interpersonal dynamics also feel realistically real—one day they are BFFs, the next they are frienemies. Sounds a lot like high school, right?

Luk’s three co-leads are all potential future stars, particularly Kwok Yik-sum, who has the look and the vibrant presence to be an HK Jennifer Lawrence. On the other side of the spectrum, Fish Liew displays unexpectedly potent slow-burning intensity as Alice, whereas Mak Tsz-yi is the grounded one, who really anchors LHC. They are the film, but Gregory Wong makes it even trickier to take stock of the picture with his charismatic and sympathetic portrayal of Raymond, a patron who takes Tracy under his wing through an exclusive month-long booking (her first).

There are no easy answers or snap judgments in LHC. There are also very definitely physical, emotional, and psychological consequences for all of the girls’ decisions. However, the film is ultimately more hopeful than the downbeat opening narration suggests. Luk deftly walks a tightrope, getting explicit without feeling excessively prurient, while Jam Yau gauzy, sun-drenched cinematography lives up to the film’s title. NYAFF digs films about HK youth gone wild, having previously programmed films like May We Chat and High Noon, but LHC is more accessible and less depressing than those previous selections. Recommended for mature, socially conscious viewers only, Lazy Hazy Crazy screens this Saturday (6/25) at the Walter Reade, as part of this year’s NYAFF.