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內衣少女 (2008)
La Lingerie

Reviewed by: ewaffle
Date: 04/26/2009

“La Lingerie” has aspects of both comedy and romance but not at the same time. It stars a very young cast (or a cast made to seem very young) playing typical characters entangled in situations that, like the characters themselves, neither interesting nor involving. There is a very unghostly ghost, a hooker with a heart of gold, a flamboyantly incompetent heir and a matchmaker who finds outrageously bad husband material for the star. The big problem, though, is structural. Just about every scene runs too long, so the few good ones get boring and the many not so good ones become dreadful.

Things begin promisingly with Miu being interviewed and hired by Lena as an apprentice lingerie designer. Her first six months will be spent in research, checking out the competition and shops and fashion shows and surveying shops—talking to retail customers and also the saleswomen who the do the actual selling on the retail level. Lena makes a point several times that memory—spatial memory—is very important for a researcher or designer but once this has been firmly established it is dropped and not referred to again.

Before Miu can get started she must attend a funeral. Her favorite aunt has died unexpectedly. The scene at the funeral itself is as inept and unlikely as anything you will see onscreen this year. Miu is the sole legatee of Aunt Lara, a middle aged woman who lived alone in a huge, beautifully furnished apartment. Miu now owns it and everything in it including the walk-in closet (probably larger than half the apartments in Hong Kong) that contains nothing but lingerie. “She even had La Perla” exclaims Donut, Miu’s cousin and new flatmate. Aunt Lara was rich. Celine, a lovely air hostess, knocks on the door shortly after they move in. Someone has been stealing her lingerie and she all but accuses the girls of being responsible. They get rid of this unpleasant, apparently unbalanced but very attractive neighbor but we know she will show up again.

On her first day at work Lara is warned by several people on the staff to be wary of Lucas, the debauchee marketing manager who likes to prey on young women. To the surprise of no one watching she winds up on a date with him that very evening. Lucas matches her drink for drink until she passes out. He then takes her to a nearby hotel, puts her on the bed still fully clothed and prepares to have his way with her while she is still unconscious. Lucas, who fantasizes himself as the “de-virginizer” is clearly the worst kind of loutish cad but Miu is saved from sexual assault when Lucas calls his fortune teller and finds out it would be a disaster for him to sleep with a woman born on Miu’s birthday. He is further discouraged when he accidently sets off the sprinkler system after she vomits on him. This was meant to be funny and might have been in a cinema in Hong Kong full of teenagers.

Miu, in her early 20s, is a virgin. Her cousin Donut, who works in a retail lingerie shop, says she met the “Cherry Bomb” when she was 14 so that state of being is long past. Donut scams male customers who come in to buy stuff for their wives. She offers to help them, picks something that fits her and offers to model it. The customer buys the item for her, generally forgetting about the purchase he initially came in for. She stays in touch through mobile phone and is focusing on a particularly smitten guy who hides from his wife in the bathroom while talking with Donut.

CC is a customer at the shop who is helped by Donut and interviewed by Miu regarding on her reasons for selecting some items and not others. CC is a much in demand hostess/prostitute in a club. When Eugene, a handsome but shy recent Harvard graduate shows up asking for the most popular girl she tells him he has to pay for her time. He asks what happens then—she tells him that it is “his call” and that he can take her wherever he wants after he has paid for her time. The next scene is her watching him shoot baskets at lighted court.

Meanwhile, back at the company, the hyper-competent Lena is being promoted and will be replaced by the owner’s son, Antonio, freshly returned from Italy. Among the new rules is that no one in the company can look directly at the new boss. This is funny the first few times he encounters and employee, less so after the tenth time, just plain grating after the twentieth. He seems to be the typical flamingly gay male fashion executive but may be just trying to hard to be flashily glamorous.

There are a few funny scenes...well there two funny scenes. One is a sexual encounter between Antonio and Miu. He is a virgin as well but has a unique or at least unusual way of dealing with first night jitters—they will have sex in the same room perhaps even in the same bed but each will touch only himself. Antonio is lying on the bed, possibly naked but with the covers tightly pulled up to his chin while Miu is sitting, full clothed, on the end of the bed. She winds up wandering around the apartment supplying the appropriate moans, shrieks and other sound effects for him—one particular sequence when she finds a dual turntable DJ set up and syncopates her ecstatic cries to the music while wearing headphones.

The other is the philanderer’s nightmare, when Donut, who actually feels very strongly about Henry, the uncharming pharmacist she is surreptitiously seeing, shows up at his home. Henry’s son falls for her at first sight and she gets herself invited to a family dinner where Henry’s wife thinks the world of her. One wrong move by him, of course, and his contained little world is blown apart. His reactions are delicious.

Stephy Tang as Miu is as cute as a box of kittens but her cuteness becomes cloying after a while. Janice Man Wing-San plays Donut. She is given more screen business in less time, is extremely attractive and shows some real acting talent. As CC, however, J. J. Jia Xiao-Chen is pure gold. She is a monstrously beautiful and sexy actress with great hair, astonishing eyes and a perfect figure She has the least screen time of the three female leads and makes the most of the time she has. She is a competent actress who, one hopes, will become even better the more she works. Her natural seeming sensuality and delightfully casual libidinousness reminds one of the early Rita Hayworth.

While there are some positives to this movie it is generally a slow moving, poorly paced slog. If you see only one Hong Kong movie about women's undergarments...see “La Brassiere”.

Reviewer Score: 3