Feel It... Say It... (2006)

Produced & directed by: Bennie Chan
Written by: Ling Lai
Starring: Eric Kot, Candy Lo, Tiffany Lee, Anson Leung, Sam Lee, Chin Kar-Lok & Tats Lau

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Dr Zmong Heung (Eric Kot) is a dermatologist whose main patient core are those with problems of a sexual nature and the diseases that come with it. Not only does he seem good and professional at what he does, he injects a little devotion to make sure his patients resolve their relationship problems as well. All being handled on the outskirts of Hong Kong where the people are taking a private bus out to the clinic. Heung's devoted assistant Ma (Candy Lo) makes sure he keeps his timetables and when we start the flick, remembers the birthday of his hot, model girlfriend Faye Wong (Tiffany Lee - The Mummy, Aged 19) when he doesn't. Being busy at all times, Faye's appointment at a massage parlor means meeting stuttering To Bing (Anson Leung - One Nite In Mongkok) who takes care of Faye so well that sex lurks in the air. Trying to resist the primal urge, eventually they can't and now have let down their respective partners. Heung is one of them, his assistant Ma is the other...

From Bennie Chan of Human Pork Chop "fame" (and not of A Moment Of Romance, Gen-X Cops fame), a quick cash in on a real life murder involving Hello Kitty dolls (1*) that was also an effective, savage experience with a rather terrific Emily Kwan act. The anti-dote to that 2001 movie seems to be this blimp on the romantic comedy map, Feel It... Say It... So what's there to be excited about then when any so-so to quite ok movie hits Hong Kong cinema? I beg to differ you cynics out there, it IS exciting. The combination of the small, bigger and even BIG is an recipe to strive for in any cinema, especially a struggling one. You have to make actual progress in each of these areas of course. It's not enough by doing. It seems especially fitting then that the movie stars Eric Kot and Candy Lo then, two performers that have relished in their goofiness in respective ways but have gotten away, temporarily maybe, to show there is some desire to be a part sometimes. Kot had a fantastic breakthrough in that regard when directed by Yan Yan Mak in Butterfly and while Lo hasn't strayed that far, performances in Cocktail and Herbal Tea (movies that had Herman Yau in the directing chair) has signaled the notion I love. That of fitting a part, fitting an atmosphere. Even a simple, age old one. For Feel It... Say It... key cast & crew do move on to bigger, better things, concerning acclaim, as they log a 2006 effort (carrying a 2005 copyright though) worthy of praise for those with a weakness for Hong Kong movies desiring to be more than one thing. I'm part of the weak ones.

Because when things are off in a Hong Kong movie (for instance dips into surreal wackiness way beyond the reality of the tale), when events of the heart manifests themselves in musical numbers or when actors talk to the camera, it takes a certain something/someone to make the tugging back and forth a valid place in the context of the film. Feel It... Say It... could be argued to suffer because of its jarring, stylistic tone as it's not so much an integral part of the romantic comedy structure. No, it's a delightful aspect to go along with it! Because for all the split screens and skits that means taking a break from the movie reality (and sometimes we're not even sure we're even IN a movie reality!), director Chan has such a firm grasp on the heart of the film that I sincerely think he'll be both embraced for his eclectic mix by the really small band of followers as well as being forgiven by doubters once the credits roll by.

Taking place in this skin care clinic, where our resident doctor acts like a doctor of the heart as well, not ticking off patients in a shallow way, nor focusing on making the drug companies gain, the neat, tidy and structured doctor along with his absolutely perfect assistant will experience being in the thick of matters of the heart and controlling, confronting and healing yourself won't automatically happen when it's about you. It's clear both Heung and Ma are living relationships with distance between them, one having a model girlfriend and the other a massage therapist working all the time. Views on why cheating is just part about having fun as a man crop up thanks to a little rant by Sam Lee's Japanese character (!) but Bennie Chan keeps rather quiet about blaming either couple portrayed. Perhaps it's just time for a break, a break-up, to start over with someone you can actually BE with and although Chan elaborates on the reasoning of Tiffany Lee and Anson Leung's characters, viewer imagination will determine what they will become as they exit the flick at a point. Perhaps a bit cruel by Chan but these characters used their uncontrollable urges, Heung and Ma will have to learn to hone their urges that are, as a sensible start, emotional on the basic level. For one, they are picture-perfect for each other image-wise but can perfection find its place in this relation and will each respective broken heart heal through this attraction. Or will fear of rejection set in again?

Bennie Chan is indeed not shy about wanting proceedings to feel real but he's not shy about injecting his off-world vignettes (skits almost) whenever he wants. The Japanese marriage agreement scene with Sam Lee, Kot and Lo stopping the movie to explain sex appeal to the audience and internal musings on bitterness and sadness manifested on screen, it's intrusive by definition but in Chan's hands, fine cinematic spices sprinkled evenly about the place. The mixture starts to take its desired shape though, into quite a mature, delightful one because undoubtedly Chan directs his best moments when letting Eric Kot and Candy Lo be absolutely real with each other. Showcasing the utmost perfect chemistry, the characters share loneliness without knowing it, the same habit without knowing...in other words in synch! The actors respond to the direction beautifully, both being suitably restrained for the emotional parts and on board with the playful, quirky detours of the film. Tats Lau also has several hilarious scenes with them as the medicine sales guy that happens to witness the cheating in the first place. Not brave enough to tell either Heung or Ma, he thinks he's done when they both are in actuality coming down with a cold. When his role switches to matchmaker, Lau is at his sly best.

When one realizes there's movie magic happening when Eric Kot and Candy Lo are just sitting down talking, there is some slight wish on even my weak behalf that Bennie Chan would just make a straightforward romance and skip the the wacky interludes that aren't too far off Wong Jing...ish. But it's hard to complain when Feel It.. Say It... actually feels complete by being odd, flashy, heartfelt and thoroughly simple. Tracking back to the need Hong Kong cinema has of being equally good at being small, Feel It... Say It... is a fine blueprint for this and even the harshest critic out there would crack a big smile. Boy do you get giddy when sleeper hits such as this comes along.

The DVD:

Universe presents the film in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, with anamorphic enhancement. Free of wear, sharpness and detail are generally fine but not outstanding. No complaints really though.

Audio options are Cantonese Dolby Digital 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 at times infected with grave errors that changes things drastically but it's easy to make out these moments and most of the film is clearly translated. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included.

Standard extras appear, starting with Star's Files for Candy Lo, Eric Kot, Anson Leung and Tats Lau. Kot's entry receives a bio as well as filmography listing but the others only come the latter. Trailers for Feel It... Say It..., Cocktail, Bet To Basic and We Are Family follows and a Photo Gallery (25 images, presented in way too small window) concludes the disc.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson

(1) Same crime was also portrayed in the Michael Wong vehicle There Is A Secret In My Soup.