Drink Drank Drunk (2005)
Directed by: Derek Yee
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Nomination at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2006:
Nominations at the Taiwan Golden Horse Awards 2005:
I may be a damn big fan of Derek Yee's very rich filmography as director (efforts such as C'est La Vie, Mon Cheri, The Lunatics, People's Hero and more recently One Nite In Mongkok will raise most Hong Kong cinema fans eyebrows) but when Drink Drank Drunk was announced, a hesitation on my behalf entered. Part of it having to with the almost relentless pace to Yee's production nowadays, compared to what we saw prior to Lost In Time. Second reason being that the very versatile and gifted Yee is venturing into romantic comedy territory again. The area where he logged his only disappointment so far, way back in 1989 when he directed The Bachelor's Swan Song (starring Kenny Bee and Maggie Cheung). Anyone can certainly figure out what on screen couples have generated chemistry and cash so teaming up perky comedy queen Miriam Yeung (that now also can add acclaim to her resume as a dramatic actress thanks to her performance in Fruit Chan's Dumplings) with Daniel Wu once again after the Love Undercover series is enough to get bums on seats. And it worked, giving Yee his second hit in a row (prior, the drama 2 Young proved to be something the Hong Kong audiences responded to...or they just liked seeing Jaycee Fong and Fiona Sit regardless of what story was on offer). Question is of course, was it for a quality genre effort or should Derek Yee have slowed down and plotted his next move more carefully?
Fong (Miriam Yeung) works as a beer salesgirl and is known amongst her circle of friends as "Ms. Never Drunk". One that could correspond to Mr. Drunk is chef, with specialty in the French cuisine, Michel (Daniel Wu) who ends up being taken care of by Fong after a drunken night out. All having to do with his restaurant doing poorly but since Fong always has had a dream of running one, she teams up with Michel to get the business going. Since he also stays at her house, rumours begin flourishing as well as the romance between the two. Over time, the restaurant still doesn't take off and in an effort to ditch Hong Kong together with Fong and a little pocket money, Michel accepts a quality offer to work in Mainlander Zhao Jie's (Hu Jing) restaurant. A choice that puts high strains on the relationship with Fong...
If you can't stand product placement and/or misleading covers, then Drink Drank Drunk is not for you. The sassy poster image of Miriam Yeung is very tongue in cheek while Budweiser obviously do get quite a showcase. Not surprising considering the plot so over those hurdles you go and examine Derek Yee's romantic comedy in an objective way instead. The above question sort of is answered as both yes and no, leaning towards the former. To be fair, Yee has made a better film than The Bachelor's Swan Song and a better genre effort than we usually see these days in Hong Kong cinema but Drink Drank Drunk goes through a first half that clearly is beneath Yee's skill.
Once again it shows his discomfort with directing audience pleasing, wacky comedy and it's a case of the staples not so much adjusting to Yee but Yee having to sink himself quite low to generate commercial cinema. So early on the overblown characters and delivery rule, with not much attention to character and only slight actual wit. The latter being small signs of Yee working the genre to pleasing effect. And while there are some solid character journeys pursued, such as Fong's hopeless, disillusioned quest for a true, honest man and themes concerning dreams of materialism, rejection of foreign customs, corporate cynicism and the emotional effects of alcohol (really the least important aspect of the film surprisingly), it's buried underneath a first half that Derek can't be proud of. Take a breather and then find out why Drink Drank Drunk grows after half time however.
Because it's when the romance is cemented and there's really only room for two characters in Yee's and Jessica Fong's script that the film gains enough momentum for it to stand a few notches above other fluffy romantic comedies. There's fresh and sweet touches provided as the couple after their first night together really do not know how to proceed, the crucial moments of any romance in other words. The depth to Fong and Michel also may not be significant but the throwback to how he once denied materialism only to embrace it with the promise of wealth in order to go on with his non-materialstic ways is engaging since we viewers do like the couple. A relaxed interaction between Miriam and Daniel proves to be helpful for this particular light genre drama as well. In particular Wu shows an ever so slightly more comfortable screen presence and has obviously improved in that regard since the late 90s. Being directed by Yee never hurts if you're trying to evolve as an actor also!
The supporting gallery is notable but problematic, starting with Vincent Kok as the gay best friend. Being the stereotypical flamboyant gay character that these movies tend to opt for while being a genuinely warm presence in the latter stages still equals a missed opportunity by writers Yee and Jessica Fong. Alex Fong upstages everyone though and is one of the sole funny things early on as the outrageous but harmless triad Brother 9. The veteran subsequently shows that breaking free from the crazy behavior to deliver honest dialogue about his care for Fong makes an act memorable. The Mainland talent for this co-production is the very sexy Hu Jing who can carry of that aspect and herself probably very well but it's so much an expected character as written that you're almost a little ashamed to see the expected coming from Derek. Paul Fonoroff, Henry Fong, Terence Yin, Andrew Lin, Ken Wong, Chin Ka-Lok and Vincent Sze also make appearances.
So returning to the question and theory that Derek Yee should've plotted his next move more carefully, I'd say yes ultimately because Drink Drank Drunk really is unremarkable and has little signs of the veteran director's competent narrative- and character touches. His goal may have been to once and for all try and give the world a romantic comedy like a good filmmaker would but he can't beat the lame audience pleasing characteristics that apparently has to be there regardless. When the movie then shifts to a semi-serious nature, he shows a more distinct touch to what in reality is shallow themes, character journeys and drama. With the help of relaxed genre veterans also, Drink Drank Drunk is very much acceptable. You'll swallow the brew but instantly will know that there should've come something better out of all this.
Panorama presents the film in a anamorphically enhanced 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The print is clean and transfer often fairly sharp and colourful.
The Cantonese (with passages in Mandarin) Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo option provides clear dialogue and music. Music being the only element that opens up the sound stage. Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 and Mandarin 5.1 options are also available.
The English subtitles feature some minor grammar- and spelling errors but overall keeps the translation coherent. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included.
Note that none of the special features has English subtitles, only permanent Chinese ones for the making of. A shame because Panorama did show for a brief while that they were willing to put in work so that releases could be enjoyed by a larger audience. Anyway, we start out with the lengthy NG Shots (blooper reel, lasting 10 minutes, 50 seconds), containing the usual flubbed lines and the only bit worth catching is Alex Fong's inability to get through one particular scene.
(cast gathered while Daniel Wu & Vincent Kok enjoy another light side of shooting)
4 deleted scenes are also on offer, lasting in total 6 minutes, 37 seconds. Mostly extensions, what can be gathered is a slight amplifying of Michel's disappointment after the restaurant is not doing well after opening day and we get the closest thing the film has to a sex scene. None of the four selections seem crucial.
The making of (14 minutes, 22 seconds) sees executive producer Henry Fong mostly take center stage but the program goes through the usual format consisting of actor interviews, movie clips and only mildly interesting behind the scenes footage. Trailers for Drink Drank Drunk, Butterfly, Set To Kill and 2 Young rounds off the disc.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson