Fruit Punch (1991)

Directed by: Clara Law
Written by: Eddie Fong
Producers: Anthony Chow & Eric Tsang
Starring: Leon Lai, Vivian Chow, Hacken Lee, Calvin Choi, Edmond So, Remus Choi, Helen Au & Song Nei

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Nomination at the Hong Kong Film Awards 1992:
Best New Artist (Song Nei)

Five friends decide to try and start their own business as money is out there for grabs. They put their limited savings into a laundry business that quickly fails as the commitment isn't really there. The commitment by the likes of Ming (Leon Lai - Comrades, Almost A Love Story) and stuttering Hark (Hacken Lee) instead falls onto love as they try to wow Yoyo (Vivian Chow - The Unmatchable Match) and Cat (Song Nei) respectively. The initiated company does take a turn for the better as the combined effort of many businesses into one attracts interest from a major share holder but with financial success round the corner, what remains more important to follow through on? Love, money or friendship?

Clara Law can be looked upon as answering her critics with 1991's Fruit Punch. After two very bleak movies prior (The Reincarnation Of Golden Lotus & Farewell, China), she got both high praise and negative feedback due to that chosen pessimism inherited within, something not all reviewers are willing to put up with regardless if it's a valid choice or not. So the creation of Fruit Punch is very logical in that regard but ultimately I don't believe the team of Law and Eddie Fong were after to please the reviewers first. No, it also makes sense after the relentless downbeat assault that was Farewell, China to take it down a whole lotta notches. The end result is a wonderfully sweet and endearing film.

Fong and Law also seem to have learned a thing or two since The Other 1/2 & The Other 1/2 as that unfortunately came with a lot more broad Hong Kong comedy mixed in with social commentary but Fruit Punch takes a funny road that is not grating. Introducing the various almost sole characteristics of the friends (the economics whiz, the womanizer, the fortune teller, the tough guy and the shy one) is very much keys into slapstick- and situation comedy territory but knowing Law's skills in bringing realism and a natural flavor to her frame, there is actually something beyond these types.

It's true though, despite the affecting places the film goes, Eddie Fong's script does not set the world record in depth yet with the chosen thematic template for the whole film, it becomes that age old thing of being bearable and workable. The youths are unbalanced, living happy go lucky lives and the opportunity to make money and to be prosperous doesn't exactly set off any serious maturity in any of them outside of Remus Choi's character (the economics whiz). Instead it's a coming of age movie surfacing due to the introduction of teenage romance that of course connects to the important lessons of responsibility with an uncertain future looming. Which in itself connects to Law and Fong's ever present theme of immigrants and it's a well-integrated issue here as characters such as Cat have come from China to Hong Kong but sees no future or stability in either country. The test of how deep love runs with that uncertainty ahead is not only entertaining, funny to follow, genuinely touching but for once, there exist some optimism in the fate of Law and Fong's characters.

It should come as no surprise that Law and Fong are not interested to show their cards right away so as always, the verdict on the movie will come far into it or by the very end. Something I'm fine with if the makers have a hook, in this case a sweet, funny aura to the film combined with sympathetic characters that despite learning something important by the end reel, never has that feeling of scripted arcs.

Law directs her actors with a focus on the real and humane, resonating very well in the overall friendship between the guys. Guys are usually jackasses towards each other but that behaviour could be the sign of a deep bond which is especially endearing to see in youth characters here, trying to build a future together. Out of a very well-put together ensemble that blends in the Hong Kong cityscape of this film, it's easy to pick out a standout and surprisingly, it's infrequent actor, otherwise singer, Hacken Lee who is totally believable as the shy Hark, trying to win the heart of Chinese immigrant Cat (Song Nei). I'll tell you, nothing gets to me most than simple romantic story beats and Law brings that to the table in the best of ways, nailing characteristics splendidly. Why today's romances out of Hong Kong feel the need to go bizarre on us is a mystery as Law here proves characters shouldn't be surrounded by wackiness as an audience will have a harder time feeling involved emotionally. The likes of James Yuen and Joe Ma should be making notes right now. Leon Lai and Vivian Chow also strike up good chemistry as two more wilder characters which is an off-beat choice for Leon Lai as I've never seen him this lively. It's very welcome.

As is the movie at this point in Clara Law's Hong Kong career. A light, sweet romance with doses of humour, realism and acting that creates an atmosphere of pleasant early 90s Hong Kong that is rightly worrying about the future though. Again, Law proves you need to engage on a character level, even if it's simple arcs, not stylistically and Fruit Punch should also go down well with anyone who was just emotionally drained in a bad way after Farewell, China.

The DVD:

Deltamac presents the film in a 1.80:1 aspect ratio approximately. Light damage is apparent and the print exhibits rather pale and washed out colours while detail never goes beyond fair. As always for the price, it's watchable though.

The Cantonese synch sound Dolby Digital 2.0 track is clear sounding, no complaints. A Mandarin 2.0 dub is also included.

The English subtitles got a dose of amusing errors but overall seems to offer up a well-worded translation. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included. Only extra is the trailer.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson