“What, no Andy, no moaning?” This has to be my favourite line from this film, and is a good contender for my favourite line ever. We hear it late in the film, when Ah Kam, our golden chicken, is being tutored in the fine art of moaning. This comes about as an extension of a famous ad that featured Andy Lau instructing Hong Kong workers how to serve customers: to Kam’s surprise, Andy climbs out of her telly and starts giving her moaning lessons, beginning with a demonstration of the art.
No sooner had my neurons recovered from the sensory overload brought on by seeing Andy moaning fit to bring the roof down, than we had another shock: Andy was replaced by a man shaped rather like a ziggurat. This unpleasant towel-wrapped figure stopped Kam, as it would have stopped us, gentle reader. Kam was then subejcted to a lecture on the fine art of self-discipline with particular application to the service industries, and the harsh fact that most customers would not, in fact, look like Andy.
Well, there went my aspirations to join the sex industry, but Kam is made of sterner stuff. She learned her lesson well, putting her heart into the job (I’m desperately trying to avoid any possibility of double entendres, but the topic is such that my unintended entendres must be up to quadruples by now. Please forgive me, and my entendres). And by working hard and with heart, she makes a place for herself in the business, and soon has an astonishing array of clients at her door.
Amongst those clients are several celebrity cameos, including Tony Leung Ka Fai and Hu Jun (from Lan Yu). My favourite, however, has to be Eason Chan: he arrives at the wrong door, all stammering urgency and owlish glasses, and begs Kam to pretend to be his ex-girlfriend. This pretence includes putting on a sweet face, pretending to be shy, and calling him “Steely Willy”. I need not comment further, save to say that the shower scene, with Kam wearing a plastic apron and scrubbing poor Willy’s crevices with extreme vigour, entirely justifies the price of admission that I didn’t pay (heh heh heh, press pass, heh heh).
But it’s not all moaning: there’s a serious side to this film as well. The most obvious aspect of this is the fact that the tales told by Kam reflect Hong Kong’s economic history from the 80s to the present. In this sense, Kam acts as an economic indicator, a sort of Hang Seng in a bustier, showing the personal face of the economic roller-coaster.
The economic theme is not the only one, however: there is an underlying injunction to make the most of what life gives you. Kam faces life head-on, dealing with her troubles rather than avoiding them, and this made the film inspiring. We all enjoy a good whinge now and again, myself included, but Kam’s attitude is to engage wholeheartedly with whatever comes her way (again, double entendres not intended), without complaining. The old saying of “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade” could be rewritten for Kam as “If life gives you a big mouth, moan your way to money”.
In addition to Kam’s enthusiastic approach to life, and of course the charm with which Sandra Ng invests her character, there’s another quality that makes Kam appealing: she has a good heart. She’s kind, uncalculating, and generous, and these qualities are far too rare inside or outside of cinemas. By cinema standards, she’s not beautiful. She’s not overly smart, ambitious, or any of the other supposed virtues we see celebrated onscreen. But she has an unthinking generosity of heart that makes her lovable, and an enthusiasm that is irresistible.
So if you get the chance, see it, and moan along with Kam.