Gimme Gimme (2001)
Directed by: Lawrence Lau
Award at the Taiwan Golden Horse Awards
Lawrence Lau's last directed film to date continues his exploration of Hong Kong's youth (something almost borderlining on cliché by now). Prior it was in Spacked Out, a Category III rated drama about doomed youth (of 12-13 years of age!) but with Gimme Gimme, set amongst teenage characters this time around, Lau sets out to explore the different facets of puppy love. I'll go simple on you and say that the results are simply terrific.
We follow a group of school friends, most of whom play in a rock band of obvious rough talent. Lobo (Tsui Tin-Yau) is best friends with track star Skid (Siu Yu-Wa) and into their friendship comes Pat (Yoyo Chen). Skid falls for her but is of the shy kind so Lobo, being the good friend that he is, tries to make sure the two connect. Pat takes a larger liking to Lobo instead though. Furthermore, we follow the exploits of Fion (Yoky Law in an award winning performance) who has a long distanced relationship with a San Francisco based Chinese and others around her plus Soda (Yorky Yuen), the token womanizer of the group with his own set rules of love.
Lawrence Lau rightfully worries about the state of youths but taking it on hard for a second time after Spacked Out wasn't really needed. Gimme Gimme therefore fits in rather well in the equation as its sole theme of struggling with love produces unexpected real results. The keyword is honesty though and that includes a slight pessimistic factor about some of these character's disrespectful treatment of their fellow youths and adults (when they do appear, which is not a lot) in the name of fun. It's not a trait that is forgivable, nor is Lau attempting to do that. Growing up does not include flawless behavior but rather realizations about yourself and the world around you in the midst of the travels towards adulthood.
Truth of the matter is, these are not thoroughly aimless kids and more importantly, they're also rather goodhearted. Gimme Gimme examines them in a stripped down and incidental manner, meaning the plot relies on a few conflicts within the relationships but Lau more sets in the feeling of just having planted a cameraman amongst these kids. You can't really firmly direct drama like this in a strict way and thankfully Lau is on board with that. There are occasions where he does go cinema on us, a few times for the worse during the end reel, but it's otherwise well integrated by a filmmaker who has learned that less is more. Less also produces the most magic in the best of cases, which this is.
Tse Loh Sze's dialogue is sharp and firmly in-tune with the character's complexities within noncomplex dialogue. This is how youths talk, this is how youths relate and there lies poignancy in knowing that, something Tse does. Seeing as this isn't a biopic either, there's no sense of actual closure. Lau captures these youths not so much at crossroads but at a point where larger life lessons about friendship and love is imprinted. Characters may own up to their shortcomings but Lau rightfully doesn't pave way for doom or a perfect path either. It's all up to them and that honest, judgmental, yet not, stance makes Gimme Gimme take on wonderful weight despite nothing earthshattering or original taking place here. Simplicity is another keyword.
It also helps that he's managed to populate his ensemble with some natural talent worthy of Fruit Chan's way of casting (i.e. strolling along the Hong Kong streets, hoping for the best). Easily the biggest star to come out of Gimme Gimme is Yoyo Chen, who has the sweetest smile cinema screens have seen for a long time and is perfectly in tune with the love triangle story she's part of. It's easier to mention the rest such as Tsui Tin-Yau, Siu Yu-Wa, Yoky Law, Yorky Yuen and the rest rather than break down their individual skill. It's simply spot on chemistry between these guys and girls, no doubt workshopped to a T because you can't pick a cast like this and get these results by just yelling action or cut. Lawrence Lau already showed a knack for getting the most out of the amateur cast in Spacked Out and furthers that skill even more here. We're waiting for you to return, Lawrence.
Add to that the held back and natural cinematography by Keung Kwok-Man and Ching Chi Wing's simple trademark Hong Kong romance score and Gimme Gimme turns out to be an obscure winner. The unnamed band that these kids play in may suck pretty big during the climax of the film but the point is about being in development and learning from each and every step. Lawrence Lau has done that and may be on hiatus still because of this great peek in his career, which is sad but great to have in a Hong Kong cinema where the quality in these films go by unnoticed by the masses. The general fan isn't saying Gimme Gimme a Lawrence Lau movie about youth romance but each to their own...even though you're wrong.
Chinastar presents the film in a 1.78:1 framed anamorphically enhanced aspect ratio. Print has a few nicks and scars and colours are reasonably good. Softness and artifacting is a problem at times though but overall this is a decent presentation.
The Cantonese Dolby Digital 4.0 track more often than not feels rather restricted to the center channel but uses some good channel separation for score. Dialogue is clearly presented and that's of importance here. A Mandarin 4.0 dub is also included.
The English subtitles occasionally, even though they're optional, go outside the right and left frame but spelling and grammar is of good standard. In two scenes, taking place at the rehearsal studio, there are no subtitles for a few lines. A single set of Chinese subtitles are also included.
Extras come in the form of a 2 minute, 55 second making of (permanent Chinese subtitles only), consisting of cast & crew interviews and slight behind the scenes footage, plus the trailer.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson