It Had To Be You (2005)
Directed by: Andrew Loo & Maurice Li
Restaurant manager Jill (Karena Lam) is in bliss as she's the woman of playboy Wai Chi On (Harvey Hu) but the second woman to be specific. Still thinking there is a chance to advance in the ranks, she also begins investing time in watching over a similar relationship her newly appointed chef Jack (Ekin Cheng) is in. Their bond turns to friendship and as almost ALWAYS these things go...you know the drill.
Again supporting new talent, genuine entertainer and as years have gone by, solid to great dramatic actor Eric Tsang co-produced this bankable genre stuff directed by newcomers Andrew Loo & Maurice Li. The latter have solid credits as editor, in particular on Riley Yip films such as Metade Fumaca and Just One Look and casting bankable talent such as Karena Lam might equal more than just watchable fluff for fans of that star? And Ekin Cheng? It indeed does and goes to show that even when you make commercial fluff, you'll have to invest more than Feel 100% did. I bet Ekin found that out when making It Had To Be You.
The setup revolves around a restaurant and the poster art shows all kinds of dangerous, wacky side characters bound to destroy matters with some otherworldly shenanigans. Some of that rings true as the setup and its characters are indeed there but rarely strays outside of the logical framework and our dual directors surely have found out how to conduct business by watching one or two mainstream exercises such as this. Being a UFO production as well, no unpredictable elements when dealing here with urban love are put forth but the production is well steered by Andrew Loo and Maurice Li who have really focused on making pre-packaged, predictable layers that more often than not affect even basically. A little bit more than basically affecting and pleasant is up on the scoreboard when final score is tallied up.
Designing It Had To Be You around the hate turning to love relationship and a few corny life philosophies written out on screen between key episodes of the narrative structure, Loo and Li provide a good focus on all manner of situations that occur. Whether it's the initial meetings of characters, setting up their love predicaments or doing the odd comedic turn with the waiters in the kitchen. They mean business but not too much business as these are new filmmakers after all but boy is it sound to bring the idea of clinching the benchmark in terms of the genre standard. And they do. Central idea of the desire of real, honest love is cemented, with leads being second fiddles in their respective relationships and not realizing you can't live with fake love. Heck, even the imaginary dog of Jill's is a symbolism of this that doesn't intrude. So when Jack and Jill develops a fondness for each other that turns to friendship where friends help friends in need to the all so predictable romance by the end, you begin to truly realize the value getting cast chemistry right.
Karena Lam shines in every frame, being totally real even when excursions mood-wise are about being bubbly as well as showcasing hurt and heart. It's truly revolutionary then to see Ekin Cheng follow so well in her footsteps and being a needed part of the duo to lead the audience into a super-pleasant ride of expected expectations. Eric Tsang supports well and even performs a neatly balanced, emotional scene towards the end that is a dangerous proposition as you'll know when it hits. The triangle the characters are in never dips into sap. It's just a throughline of trying to reach a better conclusion that's on the horizon and nothing said is of the poignant kind (especially not during the very conveniently setup finale). There are still very sound philosophies and pretty pleasant cinema. And for that, It Had To Be You deserves a to be rolled around in your gob to find even the limited tastes. They're there...and unusually tasty.
Mei Ah presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, with anamorphic enhancement. The transfer is suitably sharp and detailed with little print damage.
Audio options are Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1, Cantonese DTS 5.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 but as I'm not equipped with such a system, my assessment of this disc aspect will be left off this review.
The English subtitles are practically flawless throughout, in terms of grammar and spelling and they flow very well. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included.
Extras are limited to a basic Making Of (running 5 minutes 48 seconds and subtitled in Chinese only) that does stop to focus on the dual director issue, the trailer and the useless Databank.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson