Review: “Divas in Distress” (By Funn)
Divas in Distress <巴不得媽媽….>
Hong Kong TVB Drama 2012
Producer: Poon Ka Tak
“I won’t deny it is funny and witty many times.”
Liza Wang as “Sheung Ying Hung”
Gigi Wong as “Miu Sing Ho”
Him Law as “Vincent Chak”
Mandy Wong as “Kwai Yi Hei”
Chin Kar Lok as “Chong Ka Long”
Koo Ming Wah as “So Kei”
Eliza Sam as “Hannah Heung”
Ram Chiang as “Cheuk Wong Fung”
SPOILERS … SPOILERS … SPOILERS
Taken from Wikipedia:
Former actress divas Sheung Ying Hung (Liza Wang) and Miu Sing Ho (Gigi Wong) were initially colleagues under the same company, but for temporary superiority, the two have been fighting for 30 years and ruptures their relationship. If it wasn’t for their teacher Fung Hun Man (Chung King-fai) always getting in between, they would have cut off all relations. But the most satirical is Ho’s son Long (Chin Kar Lok) is in fact Hung’s son-in-law, and Hung’s daughter, Chak Ding-yam, passed away seven years ago due to cardiovascular disease while trying to bear her and Long’s son, Michel. Her death has left Hung in deep sorrow, as she had been against Long and her daughter’s marriage from the very beginning due to their very different social statuses.
A wealthy girl Hannah (Eliza Sam) is employed to work as a reporter in the same television station as Long. She begins to develop feelings for Long and Ho encourages her son to marry Hannah to destroy Hung, whom has forced Long to swear he will stay loyal to Yam by never marrying again for the rest of his life.
Meanwhile, Hung’s son Vincent (Him Law), who she had carefully raised to lead a successful life, falls in love with Ho’s renovation worker niece Kwai Yi Hei (Mandy Wong). Hung naturally self-destructs their relationship when she sees her son repeating history by becoming a clone of Long and Yam. Vincent and Hei’s relationship triggers past hatred between Hung and Ho, while making it more complex at the same time. The two engage in a bitter and awful fight, leaving the ones around them in a big dilemma…
Quarter way into the series, the story stopped being about the divas and became about everybody else. I watched this series about a few episodes in so when I started I was already seeing Him Law’s very stressed face. And that is the face he maintained UNTIL the end. I felt rather stressed watching him being stressed whilst the character is supposed to be assertive rather than stressed.
No doubt, I will highly recommend this series and I won’t leave this verdict until the end. It is one of the wittiest series from TVB, and operative word is wittiest. It is not consistent, it is not most daring, it is not most explosive, or funniest or dramatic but for what it is worth, it is witty as in funny in a rather different unusual cool sort of way.
The anchor of this series is of course Liza Wang and Gigi Wong. They’re the veterans and each is ably supported by a myriad of other veterans that you know but may not know their names. I am impressed with TVB’s recent willingness to cast very familiar veterans in huge supporting roles that turned out to be the breakout role and Koo Ming Wah is a name I shall never forget, since the actor’s real name that is Koo Ming Wah is used as a character name of a play in a play so to speak whilst the character’s name for the actor Koo Ming Wah is So Kei which is also a rather catchy name.
This is the series where actors and characters triumph over the story. It has its usual problems, whilst trying to emulate the more popular current trend with idol dramas for one couple, a more classic love story for other couples, the story itself went nowhere. If there is a major problem with this series, it is in the story itself, next is the character but also on some rather interesting casting choices.
WHAT’S IN THE STORY
Is this a love story? A rivalry story? A family drama? A comedy? This series tries to be everything and succeeds at none except for perhaps the family drama part. I will say this is a series about people. You meet all sort of people. It is not a situation drama or a situation comedy but a series about people. So this is a character driven series. But every character must have a story to tell.
You have the rivalry story between the 2 old veterans that is Liza and Gigi wrapped in the world of the bygone era of entertainment world which makes for compelling watch, you have that Taiwanese drama love story where one girl pursues the inactive guy represented by Chin Kar Lok and Eliza Sam, you have that K-drama love story where being rude is the new romantic and being submissive is the new cuteness represented by Him Law and Mandy Wong, you have the quintessential “is he or is he not gay” effeminate character in the form of Koo Ming Wah, parents and in laws rivalry, etc.
No particular story is a standout since not one of the particular story has a proper beginning or a proper end. They just seems to come and go as they please, utilise whenever is convenient with seriously huge plot holes. Some of the stories are quite touching, but some are just disguised romantic when in actual fact, not romantic in the least. Something just isn’t right with some of the stories, but I am sure fans will just ignore them because on surface it kinda looks good.
For example, the story of Mandy and Him Law, that is Yi Hei and Vincent. The guy is the super talented, super handsome, super successful art director (I think) and he falls for the uneducated, not terribly pretty, insecure and timid Yi Hei. Sounds like Cinderella love story isn’t it? Except Mandy Wong and Him Law has zero chemistry. Oh all the actions are there, the hugs, the cheesy whatever and every line they say is like some advert for some bridal boutique but that’s the surface. Deep down, I see Him always being so stressed out and angry, I see Mandy being so zen like, I am not convinced by this couple. Also I find it not very romantic to have a guy to call the woman he loves a cockroach or a woman who obviously wants the man keep pushing him away for the entire series which is repetitive and boring. But the worst is not all these; the worst is this pair is simply too punishing to watch. One wonders what she sees in the rude chauvinistic bastard and of course you have episodes after episodes detailing what he did as opposed to what he says and you are convinced if you were the girl, you will too fall for him except of course you have to put up with the emotional blackmails, the shouting, his controlling ways. Sorta like Twilight you see? But of course like in Twilight, Mandy’s Yi Hei WANTS to be controlled, wants to be emotionally blackmailed because she equates all that as concern, as love. And Yi Hei is a nice girl except she is to infuriatingly pretentious in my opinion. She wants, she is afraid and yet she really wants. She is so timid, and I stress SO timid she stands behind the guy whenever she is afraid. Tell me if that is not overacting or perhaps seriously bad acting? She loves her father hence she loves her hat but it is more fashion statement than personality statement with the way she wears her hat. Those are just surface stuff. Deep down, I just feel Mandy isn’t ready to do romance. She can do career woman, she can do strong woman, she can do love story, YES but she can’t do a good romance story. She is simply not compelling to watch nor convincing to watch either. The better pair was Him Law and Yoyo Chen where the love story is brief but they were cute and compelling to watch as a pair. So Mandy and Him seems like being given a perfect platform of those k-drama love story but in the end it all amounts to seriously nothing much. I felt like forwarding their scenes. I was so tired with their constant bickering and it is almost always one sided bickering.
Then there’s the love story between Eliza and Chin Kar Lok, that is Hannah and Ka Long. This is a better story and a better pair, mostly because of the super cute Eliza. On the surface this has the making of a good love story; a man burdened by his love and his guilt for his dead wife and a cuter, younger girl who saw through his roughness and fell deeply for him and practically ran after him, again and again and again. But deep down, this love story is non moving. It is always the girl doing the running after him, the man, Ka Long remains fixed until the very end where the girl shows up and he just agrees to start a relationship with him and she smiles happily. It is again too one sided. If Yi Hei and Vincent is about Vincent doing the running, here it is Hannah doing the chasing. Ka Long just stands there like a marble statue and when he agrees to love her back, it was as if his god given right that she goes to him instead of him going to her. I feel Hannah deserves a more romantic confession of love with Ka Long running after her, for once. But this is a more entertaining pair to watch, quite simply because Hannah is a very cute character. Maybe if her super cuteness is matched with Him Law’s super seriousness, it would have been a much better pair.
There are 4 more pairs with a much better love story to tell.
There’s So Kei and the editor which hit it off without all the meandering boringness the younger couples. There’s the Mr and Mrs Wong, the next door neighbours of Ka Long with their constant bed acrobatics which was very very funny to watch (they’re always naked!). You have also the olden day romantic pair of Hannah’s mom, Ching Yeuk Chan and Fung Han Man, whose names are already an indicative of the romantic bygone era. This pair is seriously funny when they met again, with visuals as well and their ending story is both of them in all white strolling on a beach! TVB can be darn witty when they want to be!
But for me the most romantic pair had to be Mr Chong and Miu Sing Ho, the parents of Ka Long. The husband adores the wife like a goddess, the wife loves the husband as a man, they have an active sex life even if they are an elderly pair so to speak and it was seriously funny and yet deeply romantic. This is the pair which I find myself gravitating towards.
The other stories are more compelling to watch than the love story.
That would be the father-son prejudiced relationship between Han Man and So Kei. It makes sense also, where an important social statement is being made. He doesn’t oppose to his son being effeminate but So Kei wants his father to wear the clothes he wears, to walk in the shoes he is in. In one very touching scene, the old Han Man laments why can’t everyone accepts his views as it is as everyone accepts So Kei’s views as it is? Yes he may be prejudiced but not in a cruel or bad way. I actually thought the story might end with Han Man dressing like So Kei for 1 time and the fact that series didn’t go that way earns a bit of grudging respect from me.
Then there’s the even more compelling story between son in law that is Ka Long and that of his scary mother in law, Sheung Ying Hung whom she blames for her daughter’s early death. And we see how Sheung Ying Hung realises the fault lies with her and how she too blames herself. In between all that we see the troubled relationship between Vincent and his controlling overbearing mother. All these are serious stuff, serious drama stuff but this series somehow achieves the balance between drama and comedy in these stories except for the boring love stories. The love stories for most part failed, big time.
And the ending is weird in the 4 In Love/Let It Be Love way. In 4 In Love, the alien invasion story is used as a catalyst for all characters to face their problems head on and towards a happy ending. In this series, the 21.12.2012 is the popular end of the world date and by the tone TVB used this as a backdrop for the ending, I can tell you, none of them took 21.12.2012 seriously. Neither do I. The last episode may seem a bit weird, as if it doesn’t connect, not does the character run to one another confessing undying love at the supposed end of the world date so basically 21.12.2012 is merely used as a witty ending plot story rather than driving the plot itself. And by itself, 21.12.2012 is very funny! I find myself laughing at the last episode and the ending where Superman Lee actually flew out of Earth, quite simply because he can. I think TVB is capable of making a witty satire is they want to because the last episode is a clear indication of that. But I do agree, 21.12.2012 does not in anyway connect with the main story so yes it is weird, but in some ways I just wish TVB just go all out and do a satire of something.
Frankly I am ok with the ending. Everybody ends up with whoever they are meant to end up with. I don’t need a wedding scene to show me the final end because frankly by halfway through the series I was sick of the young couples. How obvious they will end up together Even the confession scene of Yi Hei and Vincent seems to me rather cold, detached whilst Ka Long and Hannah is a bit warmer with their cooperative action which makes them look rather cute but still seems like an inevitable end. I’d rather not have a wedding because I can’t stand the cheesiness of it. At least the series did not force Yi Hei to wear a dress or a wedding dress. I can’t stand Vincent scolding her on her wedding day and she being secretly glad that he cared enough to scold her. I am sure within a few episodes you can see the pattern here. Same goes for Hannah and her Ka Long, only this time Hannah smiles sweetly and in a cute way and Ka Long looking par smug, part surprised, part amused.
I will be blunt. I could not and still can’t connect emotionally with Mandy as an actress. I feel nothing for the characters she plays, especially this one. I feel she has her goodness when it comes to certain strong minded characters but to me she fails abysmally as Yi Hei and she is the wrong casting decision for this series in light of her pairing with Him Law. Mandy to me is too strong willed looking to play the timid scared insecure Yi Hei, so in the end she comes across as majorly annoying. And the way she speaks is troubling; too proper to be someone like a rough uneducated girl like Yi Hei. It felt like Yi Hei was just pretending to be an insignificant not so smart nice girl, like anything she will burst out and scream “GOTCHA!!”. Maybe it is a compliment to Mandy that she doesn’t look nor act nor behave rough enough to be an unpolished diamond like Yi Hei. She felt like she is reciting her lines and at times she felt like she was acting and not natural. The character is a problem of course, but the same sort of character transported to some Taiwanese drama setting somehow works. In here it doesn’t. And she isn’t convincing in the love story part and I feel Mandy should steer clear from romantic series and focus on being a bad ass kick ass whatever.
I look at him I feel stressed. Too much makeup on the face, clothes too tight, dress the same, doesn’t this man do casual? Acting wise, yes he has improved a lot. I mean let’s face it, Him Law IS handsome. He is cute. After all, he was cute in L’Escargot and in Hippocratic Crush. In here however he is too serious because his character is written that way. He seems angry the entire time. His actions may be romantic because on paper it is, but in action, everything he does seems forceful, as if he doesn’t want to do it, but he had to and because he had to for the sake of the girl, it seems romantic but in truth, it is just a very strange almost borderline abusive controlling sort of way. But I stress, the girl likes it that way, so no problem there. But doesn’t make his Vincent less anal or less strange. Acting wise, like I said, improved a lot but in some confrontation scenes with Liza Wang, he seems out of league (obviously) but more to the point, out of beat. He finished his lines too soon and seems to be waiting for the next line by his co-star. I find that quite amusing to watch. Well it is good training to act next to strict veterans like Liza Wang and the likes. She can whip you up to shape if you’re willing to learn the hard way. I long to see a proper romantic story and I don’t hope to see Him Law. I feel stressed looking at him as he does in this series.
Chin Kar Lok
He is not in my opinion a great actor but he works well with the material given and in this material, as a cameraman, it works for him. He plays a rather benign inactive sort of gentle Ka Long and I feel he fits the character. I just don’t like how stationary his character is, how indecisive or rather he is decisive but he wants to girl to run to him, not him to her. His best scene was the scene after Hannah’s accident and he cried at his wife’s tombstone and I could feel his pain and anguish. In that scene I feel Chin Kar Lok has matured as an actor and he was able to bring out Ka Long’s grief and dilemma. Because if it was the same actor a few years before, I would have probably laughed. I may not like how wishy washy Ka Long is, but for me, Chin Kar Lok did this role justice.
Pretty girl, cute girl, bodacious body. White t-shirts and all. I may not like the over extended story about her bra and Ka Long’s twisted arm (and what a long extended story it was!), Eliza Sam was super cute. Her Cantonese is funny but then she is playing a Malaysian and I like how she answered her calls with “Apa khabar? (How do you do?)” in one scene. I like also how when she argues with her mom, Chu Mi Mi she alternates in Cantonese and in English, typical of Malaysians. There consistency in her performance helped by a huge bundle of charm. BUT she is also not a very good actress, considering she is at a very very early stage of her career and she can’t forever play foreigners so she must buck up her her Cantonese. She doesn’t look Chinese in the HK sort of way so that is also another impediment. She needs to improve and blend her looks if she wants to move on to more roles. She does have a modern face. However this performance alone, I am sure she has garnered herself a huge following of fans who will be eager to see what else she has to offer. Whilst her cute factor saved the day in this series together with possibly one of the better written role in here, I hope she wins her fans by her strength in her acting in her next performance, rather than just being a cute girl deeply in love with a guy. But she does this much better than Mandy Wong who somehow even at the end can’t shake off her inner cynicism.
Koo Ming Wah
You must remember him as the magistrate from Ghetto Justice and many many other supporting roles. If there is one breakout star in this series other than Eliza Sam, it is this veteran actor. I could hardly recognise him with his make up and very cool hair and wardrobe. Some actors you can see dread their roles, standing there with anticipation but some actors you can see enjoying their role and Koo Ming Wah as So Kei is such an actor. You can see he enjoys being So Kei very very much. Such ease, such effortless performance. He is the true breakout star of this series and his performance was fearless. I never understood when people say he was fearless in that performance until I see Koo Ming Wah as So Kei. Now I understand. He just goes all out, he doesn’t hold back, he had no reservation, he immersed himself in this role not caring what the outcome will be and I feel as a viewer it was such a joy to watch the discovery of such a gem when the gem is already there, just a matter of someone giving the gem a chance to shine. Mandy, Him and many others can learn from this performance about what it means to be fearless and just embrace our own inner “So Kei”.
She tends to be preachy when she speaks her lines, same here. But something about Liza Wang in comedy, she can be funny when she wants to be. She anchors this series well, she is the veteran and she is the centre of this series’ universe, make no doubt about that. Not to say you can’t re-cast this role. But Liza Wang gave a competent performance that at times is rather brilliant, like how she too as fearless as Koo Ming Wah was when she smeared peanut butter on her lips and throwing stuff about. A very ugly moment for Liza Wang, never expected her to agree to being ugly if you know what I mean. By the way I like her fashion in here.
Another veteran that anchors this show. She is also funny and loud when she wants to be. She is not the centre of this series’ universe. Let’s face it, next to Liza Wang, she is the one by the side. But I feel she gave a competent performance that at times is rather brilliant. Same as what I said about Liza Wang. Can be re-cast of course but why change a winning combination? She shares great chemistry with Liza Wang and with her on screen husband, Lee Shing Cheung.
Lee Shing Cheung
Oh his name is Henry? This is the veteran performance to look out for. I feel he is one of the most underrated veteran in TVB. He can play almost any role! Remember Three Kingdoms RPG? Disgusting villain? In here, he is the lovable cute husband and father. He can’t play emperor, not many can but anything beside warrior, emperor, anything which requires a bit of “ba qi”, I will say he can play that role. A fantastic actor great in both drama and comedy, he has perfect comic timing. Love his performance in here, his chemistry with Gigi Wong and his antics are funny without being childish or put on. I love the joke on his wig as well. He is bald yes, he does wear wigs in other roles but in here, it is just so funny seeing him taking on and off his wig.
Ceci So Yan Chee
Ceci So Yan Chee as Deneuve is someone I have seen her before. She has quite a lot of role and I thought she can be funny in some scenes as well. She is worth a mention because I thought she was competent in her role (Thanks to Larry 3 of Jaynestars for the name).
Chung King Fai
I always remember him as the voice often spoofed by Wong Cho Lam, and convincingly so since he speaks with an unmistakable trademark deep monotone voice. Usually I don’t like his performances, I find him bland but in this series, he was more expressive, and I find his performance convincing.
Chu Mi Mi
Her appearance in this series is to me one of the highlights; her first scene or thereabouts, she speaks Mandarin, English and Malay. All in one scene. I had a good laugh. Chu Mimi is from Malaysia by the way and her Malay sounds ok for generation her age. I like how she argues with her daughter in English. Overall this is a wonderful performance. One of her best moment was when Chung King Fai, her past love appeared, she heard his voice and she was about to lift and drink from her cup when her hand shook a bit, almost slipped. A supremely simple scene you may think, but difficult to do with such ease and she did it in such a funny way, you know her character is still very much in love with her old lover! The same scene with Liza Wang doing this act, but this time to indicate guilt. These two women can almost slip their cup of coffees for all I care because that’s supremely good acting there! Love Chu Mimi in here!
The office people, the editor, etc. Competent performances, rowdy bunch even if again office scenes are unbelievable, some rather silly but since the scenes are supposed to be funny, in its context it works. Anyway only in TVB world office people behave the way this series displays.
Despite my criticisms, I highly recommend this series. It is funny and enjoyable to watch for a lot of reasons, but not for the ones you expected. I won’t deny it is funny and witty many times. I am sure many will fall for the golden couple that is Mandy-Him or Chin Kar Lok – Eliza but for me they’re not the reason why I recommend this series. It is for the veterans. Their acting shows to the younger ones what is called acting, not pretending to be, not waiting for the other to finish her lines, not just because the man fills hundreds of coupons with your name and it is called romantic or that every girl likes to say one thing, mean another and then argue to a romantic hug which isn’t romantic. It is not just about emoting, but rather it is also about body language. I find that body language lacking in the young couples in here, whether from one to another or both. It is not perfect, it is flawed. But as far as funny series goes these days at TVB, this is one witty one.
I don’t understand why the theme video shows desserts when no one in this series open a dessert shop? What’s the connection? Life is sweet?
I don’t get the dilemma over Yi Hei and Vincent where Yi Hei decides to retire from construction work (artistic stuff of course, not seriously construction stuff, just that I can’t think of a proper word except maybe interior designing??) and Vincent doesn’t want her to give up the one thing she is good at and her dreams so decided to finally leave her. She retires because her construction work results in Vincent’s asthmatic condition worsening. Sounds terribly romantic for all the sacrifice. My question is doesn’t Yi Hei ever bath? Can’t she just bath, scrub herself before hugging Vincent? Or maybe just get rid of the dust/particle filled cap she always wears then he will be fine? I tell you, all those drama for absolutely nothing. This is the WORST plot hole in this series. Even the 21.12.2012 makes more sense than this.
Check out the final episode’s ending sequence where all the actors and actresses passport/character photos are displayed with Liza right smack in the middle. I like this. TVB may finally get it that their supporting actors are their backbone.
This review was written by Funn Lim, a Contributing Writer at JayneStars.com, and was originally posted at www.point2e.com.
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Review: “Divas in Distress” (By Funn)