Don’t Go Breaking My Heart – No Really, You Can’t Afford It.

Recently I’ve spotted a trend developing in many Mainland/Hong Kong romantic comedies. This trend has been nagging at me for awhile now but it was only after watching Johnnie To/Wai Kar-Fai’s Don’t Go Breaking My Heart that it became too apparent to ignore. Is it me or are movies like All About Women (2008), If You Are The One (2008), If You Are The One II (2011), What Women Want (2011) and Don’t Go Breaking My Heart (2011) all share the same the plot characteristics? The story generally takes place in some super cosmopolitan part of China populated by characters that are supremely successful and are usually very very well-off. There’s this off-putting veneer that glosses over bigger social/political issues. It’s as if working class characters have all been replaced by young entrepreneurs in shiny glass offices. With each major production the focus seems to be more and more on creating this simulacrum of China as this financial haven filled with wealthy people moaning about the possibility of never finding love.

I don’t know why this shift makes me nervous but it does. Perhaps I’m just a little tired of all these romantic comedies looking like lavish condo commercials.

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8 Responses to Don’t Go Breaking My Heart – No Really, You Can’t Afford It.

  1. Kingwho? says:

    Good eye, there. The all mighty dollar, to filmmakers/producers, is difficult to overlook. I dislike it as well. Cinematic pap!

  2. Martin says:

    Haven’t seen any of those other movies you mention but to be fair to the filmmakers this is probably what most viewers want. You don’t go to rom-coms expecting much in the way of social or political issues to be explored, that just gets in the way of the cute!

    I’m not saying it’s right, just that it would be commercial suicide. All that aside how did you find Don’t go?

  3. smirk2u says:

    Sure Martin, I get what you’re saying but it’s really hard to focus on the story when the filmmakers are constantly flaunting their oversize budget nonsensically onscreen. In many cases, the movie starts to be more about blatant consumerism than anything else.

  4. smirk2u says:

    Martin, I thought Don’t Go Breaking My Heart was somewhat entertaining but nothing out of the ordinary in the Johnnie To/Wai Ka-Fai cannon. It was well made and all but it just felt a little hollow to me.

  5. Martin says:

    That perceived hollowness is exactly the problem when you aim specifically at a particular demographic. I agree it was entertaining fluff but could have been significantly better.

    Do you like any of the Milkyway rom-coms?

  6. smirk2u says:

    I did like Yesterday Once More quite a bit. And it’s strange, that movie has the same problem in that it’s overly glossy but the writing and direction saves it. Needing You is fun but feels insignificant against all his other stuff.

    If anything, Running Out of Time I and II are the closest he has come to successfully mixing romance with comedy.

  7. I haven’t seen ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’, but I know that To emphasised that the most important thing to him in the final scene of the film was the ringing of the bell by the boy on the bicycle. The same character who appears in ‘PTU’, riding along, ringing that bell…

    Any how, I haven’t seem ‘All About Women’ , either, but I have seen ‘If You Are The One’ a couple of times and, I must admit, it is a film I enjoy a lot. I have the sequel on my ‘to watch’ shelf…

    Also, the whole of Hong Kong seems to be catering to shiny, cosmopolitan, cash rich slew mainlanders who swarm across the border to spend, spend, spend at any given opportunity. There’s a clutch of ultra-decadent, high-concept, shopping experience type malls (pukes in own mouth) which have sprung up in the last couple of years – some of which seem dead during the week, but they must be creaming it in on a weekend.

    That’s not forgetting the hundreds of amazingly over-priced apartment blocks, which are being built to be bought by the flood of cash that comes in from the mainland. Like the aforementioned malls, I imagine these will sit empty during the week…

    • smirk2u says:

      Well put Daniel, I really like To and I understand why he needs to do these budget fluff pieces from time to time but I wonder if there’s a way that he can make them as interesting as his crime movies. The difference in quality is just too big to ignore. It’s like he goes on autopilot mode when he’s doing a romantic comedy. Imagine someone who’s only familar with To’s work through his romantic comedies, how different of an opinion would they have of him as a director?

      As for Hong Kong filmmakers catering to mainlanders, I don’t know what to say. I know the market is attractive and the opportunity to reach a bigger audience is important but if you’re just going to release glossy “cinematic pap” then what’s the point?

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