Review: Frugal Game (2002)

Directed by:
Cast: , , , , ,

Not available in Australia on DVD (to our knowledge)

Ah.. in the harsh, capitalistic rat-race globe that we live in, this “frugal game” is more like the brutal game aka ‘survival of the fittest’.

Whatever game it may be, Chin-Wah [Miriam Yeung] a university graduate, is finding it tough to find work post Asian economy collapse. Her dad Wai [Eric Tsang] isn’t faring any better having been out of work for some time and keeping up the pretence that he’s employed by cheerily donning his suit in the morning and then moping the rest of the day with a slew of similarly unemployed-pretenders at a fast food joint.

We laugh at the silly idiosyncrasies of the unemployment sub-culture [even the fast food joint is divided into industry sectors] but there’s the uncomfortable underlying feeling that clings to the humour – it could happen to any of us. The Frugal Game succeeds here, making the audience sympathise with the unemployed characters, perhaps because many people would have experienced it themselves or know of other people who went through the same thing.

Despite the desperation, denial and heartache, the movie is saying – sheer persistence and unfailing optimism is inherent in HK society and will get them out of the rut. That said, a bit of ball-busting and shrewdness doesn’t go astray either, point illustrated by Diana [Dodo Cheng], former ‘boss from hell’ to Wai, who is now also out of work. She practically forces her herself into Wai’s family, announcing her presence as the matriarch – her plan, to win “The Frugal Family” game show together. The aim of the game is to see which family can be the most frugal, surviving on $400 [~$90 AUD] for a week.

For the most part the movie is pretty engrossing, the actual frugal competition itself surprisingly not very gripping. However there are many things that lift it from mediocrity – the ensemble cast is top notch. The two veterans Eric Tsang and Dodo Cheng are spot on and Miriam Yeung suppress her giggles long enough to give a decent performance as Wai’s daughter. Eason Chan plays the game show director who wants to be anywhere other than directing the game show. Cue the numerous digs at the television industry and the best cameo I have seen in a long time by Ti Lung.

If you can get past the obligatory love interest arc of the story, odd moments of mawkish sentiment and the tacked on ending, this is a decent and solid 1.5 hours of entertainment and you might even glean a few tricks on surviving on the cheap!

7 frugal pennies out of 10.
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