Well the Lunar New Year is around the corner once again and, for those who find themselves bored with the firecrackers, the drums, the symbols and the two guys under the paper mache lion, there is always the latest upbeat offering out of HK to shake you out of that ‘too many resolutions broken – and it’s only January’ funk and give you yet another opportunity to ‘start again’.
That moment of self reflection as you walk into a film with a name like Shopaholics, the expectation would be that, while upbeat, this is to be a film with an anti-materialistic moral at its core. However, you forget that this film was made in Hong Kong, perhaps the capitalist centre of Asia, and corporate sponsors tend to frown upon such a message.
Instead, what Shopaholics is, is a very silly romantic comedy emphasising the mental disorders of the participants as a plot device – oh, and the shopping and the consequent owning of stuff – so no heavy-handed moralising. Fong Fong’s credit card problems do get a mention, but that particular problem tends to get magicked away since the two male leads are supposed to be extremely rich and, if anything, the attitude encourages being even bigger consumers. If something is satirised, it’s perhaps that everyone has a mental illness of some description as if that is fashionable thing to do, and there’s a lingering doubt as to whether psychiatry is supposed to good thing or a bad thing.
Politics aside, the film itself however IS a lot of fun and it seems Wai Ka Fai has tempered his use of humour somewhat to prevent the film jumping too far into the land of farce. The level of fluff is set pretty high, so dramatic demands are consequently low, though it was quite scary seeing the madness take hold of Cecilia in the opening scene of the film, and the end has to be the most convoluted, yet entertaining, version of the Solomon baby splitting story I have ever seen.
There is little doubt you will find the ridiculousness of Shopaholics amusing if not actually finding yourself laughing out loud at it. It was certainly a guilty pleasure as the film turns to its inevitable conclusion, yet the politics of the film was not something that I have great empathy for. Not a completely clean slate – but it’s a start.