[Review] “Rear Mirror” (By Funn)
Rear Mirror <載得有情人>
Hong Kong TVB Drama 2014
Producer: Fong Chun Chiu
“Drama is good for a series which is pretty much flat line in the romance department”
CAST OF CHARACTERS
Wayne Lai as Sunday Kei Yat Sing
Louisa So as Anson Yiu Ngai Yan
Tony Hung as Ivan Yiu Chi Hau
Natalie Tong as Mui Man Kwan
Elaine Yiu as Miu Man Yee
Chung King Fai as Yiu Siu Bong
Lau Kong as Yiu Siu Wing
Susan Tse as Gu Suk Yin
Mary Hon as Elaine Fong Yi Ling
Benjamin Yuen as Jason Yiu Ngai Chung
Stanley Cheung as Ryan Yiu Ngai Suan
Amy Fan as Hung Lai Sa
Ram Tseung as Yue Dai Chi
KK Cheung as Ben Shum Bok Man
Found here at Wikipedia which is pretty accurate.
A single father who works as a mini bus driver that struggles to raise his young son with a severe food allergy problem alone, meets a female CEO of a huge corporation who seems to have it all on the outside but has struggles of her own due to her father’s illness and family members fighting with each other for the CEO position.
It is billed as a romantic comedy or a rom-com. It is more like draromedy with less romance, more drama and some comedy.
For a drama, it works. The drama is the entire story of the in fighting and outsiders’ fighting for the place of CEO. Comedy is provided by Tony Hung’s story which is really the real romance of this series. As for the romance itself, there is none between the 2 leads until the very end and even then it is more like suggested rather than all out romance. It felt like a romance story suitable for senior citizens; rather non happening, not very passionate and it is what it is without embellishment which this series badly needs. The embellishment is in the drama and at times I was wondering what am I watching.
You see, this series succeed in none of these elements.
As a comedy, it wasn’t very funny. Sure it has its moments, like the awkward charm of Tony Hung’s character who kinda grows on you. I like the fact that he learns to be decisive in his love life and goes for the real love of his life. Natalie Tong works well with Tony Hung and they are believable as lovers who became friends who became soul mates. I was not convinced with Tony as the fidgety guy who is unsure of himself with a domineering but nonetheless a father who meant well. I thought this was a role made for Jason Chan who defines fidgety and unsureness but towards the end Jason will have a hard time convincing me he is self assured and grows into a real man. So in a way Tony Hung does badly at the beginning but does better in the end. Truth be told, I find Tony Hung a far better actor than Jason Chan so all things worked out well. But quite a pity; I may actually like Jason Chan if he was in this character. As for Natalie, at times in other series she OTT in everything but in this series, she was fine. I enjoyed her performance and I do like how decisive her MK Mui is. I feel the romance is in this pair as well although the real pair is Louisa and Wayne.
Louisa and Wayne… it sounds like a pair made in heaven but in the end something is missing. Is it the spark? I feel it is more like the story that is unable to assist the spark. For a rom-com about a driver and his boss, there is no romance at all until at the end. For all the talks about being sublime, understated, etc etc the romance or pairing felt more missing than subdued. I get it; their love is like tea, takes time to brew. But we don’t see the brewing, we don’t even get to see the tea so how are we supposed to be convinced we sipped tea in the first place? Almost more than half the series is about the drama; first the drama about Wayne, his son and ex girlfriend coming back for the son for dubious reasons. Then we have the drama about Louisa and her brothers and step moms and the fight for CEO. Then we have Tony’s father arguing with everyone about a project we often hear about (about some clean water project) but never get to see it in action. You will certainly hear one word a lot; CEO. The way this series goes, it felt like CEO is the single most important, more powerful, most awe inspiring and most dazzling position, E-VER. But do you actually get to see the CEO work? Nope. Implied, some board room maneuvering but not much. It is so funny when the board or employees sit down to talk about projects, the scene cuts to the end where “Ok, so now we know what to do….” Yeap, make life easier, just cut through the real work and go straight to the drama. But I will love to sit in this family’s board room. Why? Drama every single time. Step moms snapping at one another, brothers questioning the CEO sister, uncle threatening to cut funds for very very personal reasons. Everything is personal in here. The way the business is run, I am surprised anything is ever agreed and carried out.
But that’s not just the problem.
Earlier on we see Louisa as someone no one respects or rather no one even looks at her. She was in the legal department and of no significance to the corporate structure since daddy runs things with uncle. I never had the impression the father loves her very much or even prioritize her at all. And then she became CEO and I thought it is because she was the one least involved in the squabble. But thereafter we see how daddy loves her, enjoys her company, taking trips down memory lanes about her mother, her childhood, etc etc. But I never had the impression the father loved her the most. In fact it was understood she is there on temporary basis; eventually she has to give way to one of her brothers. I find that very insulting. Of course in the end we know the father’s real intentions which is really all about challenges to keep his mind alert and he enjoys challenges very much.
When the series seems to be steering towards something interesting; how the driver protects his lady boss, how she deals with problems after problems, the entire thing stopped and switches gear to Wayne and his son’s mother and the paternity suit and the entire custody hearing. That came out of nowhere because earlier the mother came back, did DNA test and then said cryptically “You won’t win against the biological father” and then she disappeared for a good number of episodes and then came back when the plot requires some drama. And then more drama as the biological father wins the case, kid moves in with bio-daddy and quite as sudden, the kid is returned and the series switches gear to corporate takeover. And as I was beginning to enjoy the corporate takeover, there is a double corporate takeover and we learn the true nature of both the bio-daddy (KK Cheung) and the father (Chung King Fai) which really is very interesting. The entire dilemma would have merited a few episodes except quite as sudden, bio-daddy disappears from screen and father has dementia and we learn uncle was always right. Cut to 3 years later and the main pair meets again, some cryptic lines and the end.
And in retrospect, I realise I only ever truly enjoyed 2 parts of this series; the story of MK Mui which really steals the limelight of romance which this series is supposed to be and how Wayne did the Tokyo Drift thing with Louisa’s car at the beginning which is really the drama for me. The suspense is great for watching but after that it kinda made me feel I was watching something incomplete; something that is half baked. The only thing I learn from this series is CEO is everything. Louisa’s character even won one of the Top 10 Female CEO in the country. Which is funny. So there’s top 10 female CEO and top 10 male CEO. Feels like TVB awards; dividing the pork. I don’t even thing the portrayal of CEOs is anything near resembling a CEO in real life. All I can here is CEO this, CEO that, CEO here, CEO there. The court room drama is exactly that; drama. It is badly written, and mainly to facilitate that short moment of difficulty for our hero and his young son. It felt put on; it didn’t feel natural. It would have been fun if one of the lawyer characters in The Other Truth guest star as one of the lawyer. Now that would be attention grabbing.
Performances wise, I am torn.
I am a huge fan of Wayne Lai who I feel deserves every single accolade showered on him. He is an actor’s actor; a character actor with character. He is also an actor who can portray romance; he tends to be one of the most flirtatious and romantic actor on screen without being overly lewd or depending on so called physical aspect. He can stand 10 feet away from the girl and still show us passion and deep love. Which is why he is so disappointing in this series. For one, his character Sunday is certainly the most super achiever of a character. A former delinquent turned gangster turned reformed learned dude turned mini bus driver turned driver turned photographer turned cafe owner turned cafe franchise owner. His Sunday doesn’t give me an impression he is poor; the way HK goes, England is like so cheap for everyone. I thought maybe he is some CEO in disguise or something. Ahhhh that is if this is a Taiwanese rom-drama! It isn’t, of course. He felt out of place. He was god-awful in the first few episodes. It felt like he just walked out from Forensic Heroes 3, changed career and became a mini bus driver. I find his performance pretentious and he lacked chemistry with the young boy actor. But as TVB series go, give it 7 episodes or so before we are all brainwashed and so I was; by the 7th episode I got used to his over sophisticated driver character but I never could shake off the feeling Sunday is an impossible character. I was never convinced by him, never felt for him, never cheered or cried for him. That was for Tony Hung’s character, not this Sunday.
Louisa So was also god awful in the first few episodes until she got into the rhythm of things. Her Anson never truly touched me. I was never convinced with her niceness. I kinda thought she cared more for her dog than for the kid. I never thought she ever truly loved her vet boyfriend at all. I find her cold, and that is Louisa’s fault. She never exuded the warmth that is needed for Anson. I also dislike the way she slurs her speech. It is worse than I remember. Louisa is normally a competent actress but this series did not manage to bring out the best in her and quite frankly, I don’t even think she bring out her own best for this series.
Natalie Tong impresses me. I used to dislike her OTT acting, like everything is personal to her even if it is someone else’s problem. But in this series she balances well in her performance as MK Mui who is for me the most memorable character in here. Her chemistry with Tony Hung works and she is very enjoyable to watch. She is less sleepy looking, less bored looking and looks more alive in here.
Tony Hung as I have commented above is not suitable for the first half of the series but grows into the character in the 2nd half.
Benjamin Yuen and Stanley Cheung as the half brothers were enjoyable to watch since they don’t have much to do except to antagonise Louisa’s Anson in the boardroom.
Amy Fan is enjoyable to watch. I feel she is one of the very few whose character is fully fleshed out. She nails the part of Vanessa (Wan-Nai-Sa aka Play with Sand).
Elaine Yiu is typecast as the ungrateful disgruntled ex girlfriend who runs away from a relationship for own selfish reason. That being said, she has grown into a competent actress. I shudder to think of how she was in Safe Guards and my god, she has come a long long way. I wished she has more varied characters though. And she should take care not to slur her words, if not she will end up like Louisa So.
The young actor, not sure what is his name, is a very handsome boy! That’s the first thing I noticed. Whilst I didn’t like his acting at first, not as good as the ones in Coffee Cat Mama (http://point2e-reviews.blogspot.com/2014/01/r-coffee-cat-mama-tvb-2013-funn-lim.html), he grows on me.
Ram Chiang has a role in here, a very important one even if I was thinking his role will be a villain, in love with Anson, etc etc. I was pleasantly surprised that he is personally without much drama and I like that. As always, a wonderful actor, as long as he is not the CEO.
The veterans were the ones who truly shine. From the bickering step moms that is Susan Tse and Mary Hon to the typecast Lau Kong as another angry uncle/demanding father, KK Cheung as the nice guy/bad guy/nice guy/bad guy/nice guy/bad guy character (yeap, series was indecisive as to vilify him or deify him) and Chung King Fai, the ultimate bad guy. In fact Chung King Fai steals the show in the end with the way he was so calculative and turns out to be the biggest villain. Pity is there is no consequence for this character except for dementia which was a blessing in disguise because it heals the rift between the 2 brothers. I would have wished Anson walk away from her father and run away with Sunday to England because what the father did was inexcusable. Unfortunately, this series decides not to go extreme in anything. The dilemma flat lines before it reaches the ultimate drama.
You can see it both ways; 20 episodes of nothing much or 20 episodes of too much. Either way, nothing is adequately portrayed or fleshed out or represented. It felt like it was badly edited or filmed in a rushed way without adequate films to cover all the intended scenes and stories. Great for those days where there’s absolutely nothing to watch. I enjoyed it for that reason. But if there is something else on the telly, give this a miss. I wouldn’t recommend it even for Wayne Lai.
This series will appeal to those who wants to watch something that is nothing much. Drama is good for a series which is pretty much flat line in the romance department.
I like the poster. One of the least packed poster in recent memory. However Natalie and Tony shouldn’t be in the middle. Looks out of place.
This review is written by Funn Lim, a Contributing Writer at JayneStars.com, and was originally posted at www.point2e.com.