The joke was going to be that I wasn’t going to mention Chungking Express.
Well, all hail B’doom-ch’nk, the god of obvious punchlines.
Watching Herbal Tea, it is pretty hard to not draw some parallels with Wong Kar Wai’s debut masterpiece – but not for anything particularly praiseworthy or innovative. Just the plotline of the third story in CKE is quite closely aligned to that in Herbal Tea.
(For those not familiar with Faye Wong’s debut performance with Tony Leung Chui Wai, guy meets girl while falling out with another. Girl assists guy in the background. The two hook up before deciding some time apart would be best before the obligatory happy ending)
But then, no one goes to see Romantic comedies for amazing plot twists. We all know the leads are going to end up together just like we know the sidekicks going to die, the bad guy is going to get his come uppance and the damn boat is going to end up on the bottom of the ocean. What is important is that in going through the motions, does the movie have the right style and pacing to keep us interested till the end.
So in that respect, Herbal Tea offers enough to keep you going. It is always fun to watch Candy Lo have the precociousness of a giddy school girl. Not as much as seeing Jordan Chan take a few beatings but pretty close. What is amusing though is seeing Candy playing the role of a relationship virgin while disturbingly giving sexual advice to an elder neighbour and being the object of (unknowing) adoration of the men around her.
Unfortunately, the chemistry between May and Dan (Candy and Jodan respectively) is pretty low. Admittedly, they play off each other at arms length for a good portion of the film but there’s never really that sense of tension that may turn into love. Instead there is just a mutual sense of congeniality that eventually turns into love. The problem is that May is just such a friendly and helpful person that if it wasn’t for the fact that Dan is
- the lead and
- has more screen time (and hence assumedly more attention) than any of the other suitors
that there’s any clue that things may develop.
For a romance, there’s a certain sense of inevitability that pushes things along rather than any sense of feeling and that’s really Herbal Tea‘s greatest failing. There are sufficient amusing moments and interesting scenes to keep one interested but it rather fails in getting the blood going or the heart a flutter.