"They say happiness was a crystal ball. It was shattered when it fell from the sky. The broken pieces showered on everyone, and people began to pick them up. Some collected more, others found less. No one could find all the pieces."
Why can't more romantic comedies be this gentle? Even when its story falls maddeningly apart in its final half hour, "Look for a Star" maintains a sweetness that's all too missing in most modern romances. It is the tale of nice people falling in love, and while there may be the obligatory conflict, that is not the point. Here is a film that wishes nothing but happy thoughts on the audience.
Andy Lau stars as Sam, a billionaire industrialist who falls for Milan, a woman so vibrant and so lovely she could only be played by Shu Qi. Ah, but she is merely a lowly croupier in Sam's Macau casino (the MGM Grand, no less; the movie was filmed on location in all of Macau's lushest spots, for prime romantic value), and by night, she dances in a ragtag burlesque show, hardly the sort of person a billionaire industrialist should be wooing.
We have seen this plot before, and the screenplay, by Ming Tang and James Yuen, is comfortable rehashing all the old points. Sam does not reveal his identity at first, opting to charm Milan on his own, only revealing later the truth of his power and wealth. Of course, Milan has mentioned how Sam is responsible for tearing down her childhood neighborhood, and if Sam reveals himself to her, will she love him or hate him?
Perhaps the writers knew this was too familiar a set-up, as they plow through the bumps as quickly as possible, without relying too much on the clichés of the genre. Most of the story focuses instead on the wonderful chemistry between the two stars, whose playful interaction is sweet, lovely perfection. Both are obviously enjoying the wild comedy and the soft, agreeable interludes where the film finds its best moments. The real conflicts come later, and are far more organic, more true to the characters: after proposing marriage, Sam is steamrolled into asking Milan to sign a prenup; that, more than any forced chuck of romcom formula, causes friction between our leads.
On the side are two more tales of class-divide romance, and although such repetition of theme threatens to lay it on thick (director Andrew Lau, of "Infernal Affairs" and "Initial D," is not known for subtlety), the cast is so in tune with the sweetness at hand, and the characters are so tender, so amiable, that we welcome such redundancy, if only to spend more time with such great people.
The first subplot follows Sam's chauffeur/best friend Tim (Lam Kar Wah), set up on a blind date with Shannon (Zhang Xinyi), a single mother. At first, such a fact scares off Tim, but he realizes such concerns are silly, especially as he grows fond of her daughter. (The brief scene where Tim realizes how good he has it is one of the film's most beautiful moments.) But there are other concerns: Shannon, worried about status, may be looking for a man who's a little better off financially or socially than Tim. Will such worries tear this perfect couple apart?
Meanwhile, Sam's second in command, Jo (Denise Ho, billed here under her pop star nickname "Ho CC"), keeps stumbling across Lin (Zhang Hanyu), a lowly construction worker with a determined belief in chivalry. Jo's boyish looks (many better-than-expected jokes are made at her flat-chested expense) have kept her from romantic happiness for too long, and it's obvious Lin's the man for her, but will she see it? And when Lin is fired (for making a romantic gesture she's too dense to see), will his stubbornness keep him away?
For the first hour, "Look for a Star" is about as enchanting as you'd want from a romantic comedy, its cast perfectly in tune with the escapist tone, its characters beautifully treated with warmth and kindness. Love is in the air, and the feeling is contagious. (a handful of star cameos - many unrecognizable to western viewers like myself - add to the lightweight, big glam tone of the picture.)
By its second hour, however, the script begins looking for more ways to keep the story going, afraid, perhaps, that the natural conflicts of class will not be enough. And so the film sets up its greatest misstep for its final half hour: all three plotlines are roped into a ridiculous live television show, something called "Follow Your Heart," where guests share their romantic problems with the nation in hopes of reuniting with their loved ones. It's tempting to try to defend this choice; after all, the same characters would deliver the same lengthy emotional monologues while the same music swells on the soundtrack anyway, and all the screenplay has done is streamlined the moment, efficiently pulling all three climaxes into one convenient setting. But no, not really. The TV show finale is pretty darn dopey, keeping the film from being a near-flawless piece of escapist entertainment.
Fortunately, the writers manage to avoid a few expected clichés here, the TV show not ending quite as you'd expect. Such a save is not enough to make up for such a poor scripting choice, but it is enough to restore the goodwill the story and its characters have built up. "Look for a Star" ends more or less with the same charm and wonder it carries in its opening acts, and what charm and wonder it is.
Tai Seng is releasing "Look for a Star" on Region 1 DVD; it appears to be a direct port of MegaStar's Region 3 disc.
Video & Audio
The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer nicely captures the movie's bright, colorful feel. Detail is crisp and bright, with much attention given to the rich Macau sites.
The Cantonese soundtrack is presented in both Dolby 5.1 and DTS, which are a bit more than necessary, really, considering the focus on dialogue. Music permeates the picture but doesn't overwhelm the speakers, leaving this a simple but effective mix. A Mandarin dub is also included, in equally workable Dolby 5.1. Optional English, Traditional Chinese, and Simplified Chinese subtitles are provided.
Three making-of featurettes (15:04 total; 1.78:1 flat letterbox) feature simple EPK-style patter from the cast and crew, who are asked to define "bliss" as a way of introducing the themes of the film. In Cantonese with burned-in Chinese subs and optional English subs.
The film's two theatrical trailers (3:28 total; 2.35:1 anamorphic) are also included. Curiously, the trailer uses alternate translations of a few key points of dialogue, which doesn't change the story but lends a slightly different feel. In Cantonese with burned-in Chinese subs and optional English subs.
There's too much good nature in "Look for a Star" to be undone by a problematic finale. The cast is flawless and the charm is delightful. For those looking for a breezy, feel-good romance, this one's definitely Recommended.