Three stupidly wealthy people find love among the paupers in Andrew Lau’s romantic comedy.
“They say happiness was a crystal ball. When it fell from the sky, it shattered. the broken pieces scattered all around us. people began picking them up. Some collected more. Others found fewer. But no one can ever find all the pieces.”
Andrew Lau. He’s probably best known for action and crime films, like Young and Dangerous, Revenge of the Green Dragons and Infernal Affairs, as well as films like Storm Riders. But, like his contemporary Johnnie To, he’s been known to dabble in other genres, most notably in romance with films like Dance of a Dream and Daisy. In 2008, after a number of disappointing movies, he reunited with Infernal Affairs star Andy Lau and made a quirky romantic comedy.
Supposedly based off the relationship between business and casino tycoon Stanley Ho and his fourth wife, Andy Lau stars as Sam Ching, a billionaire casino owner who meets part-time card dealer and full-time dancer Milan (Shu Qi), and the two form a relationship. Naturally, their vastly different lives clash and Milan is thrown into a world she doesn’t understand, and believes herself not good enough for Sam. That she is suddenly thrown into the spotlight certainly doesn’t help matters.
Right off the bat it’s worth noting just how much chemistry there is between the two leads. Watching the film, it’s tough to tell what the respective characters’ ages are: Andy Lau looks and acts like his then-age of mid-40s, but Shu Qi – who was only 35 at the time of filming – acts like she’s about 20-something, which doesn’t feel great. That being said, they work wonderfully off each other, and their relationship is absolutely adorable, if a bit sudden.
The film is let down a bit by its pacing, which plods along in certain scenes, before jumping the gun and rushing through weeks of relationship building. Not that we don’t believe the two are in love, it’s just I was under the impression they’d been on two dates before Sam asks Milan to marry him. It’s also interspersed by two other love stories: Sam’s entourage all have plots, which involve Denise Ho as a colleague who won’t admit she likes handyman Lin (Zhang Hanyu), and their friend Ma, who starts his own relationship.
The film deals with 3 different relationships, all about the social and class differences between the couples, and it’s the variations that give the story a wider scope, and allows it to expand its viewpoint outside of the simple question of “love verses money”. What works here is that the script gives us three very different problems, from Jo being Lin’s boss, to Sam’s billionaire ways apparently having demolished an old fairground to make room for housing. By giving the b- and c-stories a similar, but different enough angle, the movie keeps its themes intact but doesn’t feel trite.
However, it’s that last point about Sam that doesn’t ring entirely true, Through Milan’s idealistic eyes, Sam (the Sam she pictures before she knows who her boyfriend really is) is a monster who cares for nothing but his own business, when in reality Andy Lau plays a character who’s so charming, friendly and surprisingly relatable (despite being a billionaire) that it’s hard to see this side of him. Maybe the point is that Milan’s idea of who is turns out to be wrong, but it’s not really addressed. And that Sam ends up doing something quite dumb regarding a pre-nup that sort of shows this, but it’s a chunk of manufactured drama that doesn’t fit in an otherwise fairly organic story. That this drama lasts about one third of the film’s runtime isn’t great though.
Look for a Star (the title of which I don’t quite get in the context of the movie) is a fun time, but certainly nothing genre-defining or defying. If you’re looking for a sweet, unassuming time with a host of likeable and affable characters then you’ll have a good time with it. Frankly, there isn’t a tonne to say more. As a rom-com, it’s fairly by the numbers, except in the way it times its third-act breakup. But hell, it might be worth it for the scene where Andy Lau sits contemplatively on a rocking horse in the middle of the road.
Verdict: With its decent script and good cast, Look for a Star is nothing special or mind-blowing, but something tells me it’s perfectly happy that way
Overall entertainment: 6.5/10
Shu Qi: What a goddamn sweetheart
References: Of course there’s a God of Gamblers joke
Music: Ronan Keating would not have been my first choice
Service: You’ll get extra toast if you don’t finish your first
Look for a Star (2008)
Also known as: 游龙戏凤
Director: Andrew Lau
Writers: James Yuen, Cindy Tang
Andy Lau – Sam Ching
Shu Qi – Milan Sit
Zhang Hanyu – Lin Jiu
Denise Ho – Jo Kwok
Lam Ka-wah – Tim Ma
Zhang Xinyi – Shannon Fok
David Chiang – Uncle
George Lam – Sharky
Rebecca Pan – Sam’s mother
Maria Cordero – Auntie
Cheung Tat-ming – Tommy
Raymond Cho – Frank
Monie Tung – Kamy
Angelina Lo – Sister Siu
Ella Koon – Chihuahua