Acclaimed female screenwriter Ivy Ho’s second sally of taking the director chair, CROSSING HENNESSY is an indigenous rom-com pairs Hong Kong’s“God of Songs” Jacky Cheung with a mainland parvenu Tang Wei, actually, this feature marks the long-awaited follow-up of Tang’s incandescent debut in Ang Lee’s LUST, CAUTION (2007), after the film prompted a ban of her in filmmaking in mainland China due to its scandalous erotic charge, from which Ms. Tang is shrewd enough to find a loop to circumnavigate by being granted a Hong Kong citizenship and also ventures in a South Korean picture LATE AUTUMN (2010), directed by Kim Tae-yong and the pair would tie the knot in 2014.
In CROSSING HENNESSY, it is all start with a blind date. Loy (Jacky Cheung) is a forty-something ne’er-do-well, cosseted by his widow mother (Paw), who presides over an electronic appliance shop with street smart, and his spinster auntie (Chu), who ministers to his quotidian requirements, no wonder he is perpetually stuck in arresting development, only the tidings of his ex-girlfriend Man-yu (Maggie Ho-yee Cheung) can jolt him out of lassitude. On the other end of Hennessy street in Wan Chai District, Oi-lin (Tang), is a parentless young woman works in her uncle's bathroom appliance store, she already has a boyfriend Xu (On), who is presently cooped up for his hoover act, considerably, her uncle (Lam) disapproves of this relationship, so in the first place, both Loy and Oi-lin agree to the date only to appease their elders, and in the presence of these eager-beaver matchmakers, there is not a scintilla of spark occasioned because both are slumming it.
Afterwards, they go separate ways, Loy rekindles his relationship with a recently divorced Man-yu whereas Oi-lin frets about Xu’s violence-prone temper and their fickle future, but destiny gives them another chance, a chaste friendship is burgeoning when they find out both are avid readers of whodunits, and even develop a folie-à-deux about a mysterious Indian waiter (Singh)in their usual haunt, a typical Cha Chaan Teng (literally means“tea restaurant”). But misunderstanding and clashes ensue, and they have to firstly sever with their status quo before starting a new lease on life, and through Ho’s verismic and unpretentious script, a climatic happy ending is only sensibly suggested rather than celebrated with fanfare (although eventually there is a wedding for a pair of squabblers).
In the acting front, Jacky Cheung scrupulously deigns to put on a facade of an ordinary Joe oscillating between a waggish deadbeat and a self-aware non-starter, and brings forth an unlikely hero eventually grows on you. Tang Wei, on the other hand, radiates a natural brilliance even the script doesn’t proffer her many juicy parts, she is particularly in her element with small gesticulation and subtle introspection. But for my money, the biggest amenity is the old hand Nina Paw, contrasting her more inwardly demanding strength manifested in Ann Hui’s THE WAY WE ARE (2008), here she boisterously plays up Loy’s mother with a hyperbolic flourish, and magically does not relinquish the character's human aspect in spite of the caricatural conceit, also counterpoised by Mimi Chu’s self-deprecating presence as her dowdy sister.
Awash with Hong Kong veterans (including cameos), Ho’s film is inevitably evocative of nostalgia of Hong Kong Film Industry’s heyday, but Ho’s directorial skill is far less adroit compared with her contemporary Ann Hui, sporadically the editing seems gauche and the distorted dream sequences seem, to say the very least, rudimentary in this day and age, so are the slow-motion shots of the newlyweds nearly the coda, barely outstay their welcome. Yet, furnished by Anthony Chue’s resonant score and an able cast, CROSSING HENNESSY has its own melancholy advantage towards a certain demographic since a pureblood Hong Kong movie isas scare as hen’s tooth at this moment in time.
referential points: Ivy Ho’s CLAUSTROPHOBIA (2008, 6.5/10), Ann Hui’s THE WAY WE ARE (2008, 8.6/10), Peter Chan’s COMRADES: ALMOST A LOVE STORY (1996, 8.2/10).