How to Pick Girls Up! (1988)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2005-08-23
Summary: Only worth seeing if you are mad about one of the actresses
Depending on how you feel about such things, this movie is either a) tasteless; b) politically incorrect or c) transgressive—especially by 2005 American conventions. Since it was made for a local audience 17 years ago the point can be made that we can’t really judge it from a very different time and place—that to do so would be anachronistic, imposing standards that didn’t exist then.

However...”How to Pick Girls Up” is an only occasionally funny comedy. Its view of women is not untypical of mainstream movies, whether made in Hollywood, Western Europe or Hong Kong. It says that women must have men in order to exist. In the Wong Jing universe a woman might be intelligent, rich, successful, talented and drop dead gorgeous. But until she hooks up with a guy—even if the guy is stupid, poor, ineffectual, crude and ugly—she has to keep looking. And a morally reprehensible guy, like the Love Pain Killer, is still better than none at all.

The only reason to see this movie is the actresses. I rented it because it has two of my favorites—Maggie Cheung and Chingmy Yau. Since I would gladly crawl across a field of broken glass in order to touch the hem of Maggie Cheung’s garment (or something like that) sitting through ninety minutes of a Wong Jing masterpiece in order to see her was not much to ask. “How to Pick Girls Up” was released in 1988—a year that saw ELEVEN movies with the Maggster hit the screens. It was Chingmy Yau’s second movie.

In watching the early work of favorite artists it is difficult not to see it from the point of view of what they have become—even in such lightweight fare. There is a sense of inevitability that only exists when one is looking back. Obviously Maggie Cheung had a lot of fans in 1988—but none of them could say that years later she would be one of the most respected motion picture actresses in the world, a person who drops into Berlin, Venice and Cannes in order to pick up a “Best Actress” award one year and to sit on the jury the next. After seeing “In the Mood for Love”, “Comrades, Almost a Love Story”, “Clean”, Irma Vep”, “Centre Stage” and several other films it is tempting to look this one and say that the kernel of her later success was apparent in her work—tempting but wrong, of course.

She has a couple of excellent entrances and some decent lines—not only, for example was the father of her one year old son killed in a fight, so were many of her other ex-boyfriends—a bit later we find that he was killed in a car accident. Maggie is a whirlwind of energy, easily dominating the lovesick Wilson Lam. We tend to empathize with him—she is gorgeous and full of life and her quasi-underworld background gives her an additional edge. But mainly Maggie hits her mark and says her lines. She plays a one dimensional character, which is the way her character (and everyone else) is written.

The same is essentially true of Chingmy Yau who plays Beibei. One can’t make the leap from this movie to, for example, “Naked Killer”—her insanely sexy overbite wasn’t even deployed in “How to Pick Girls Up.”

The other actresses are also as good as they are allowed to be by the material. Elizabeth Lee is Hong the bat wielding friend of Beibei. It is hard to believe that Maggie’s character would fall for the decent but painfully shy He Matong (Wilson Lam) or that successful TV actress Beibei would be interested in Xin Jeijinjg—essentially Wong Jing playing Wong Jing. But it is impossible to think that Fei Changfan (Stanley Fong) would get a second glance from Hong after his disgusting attempts to gain her favor.

At least when Ellen Chan as Yuki seems to fall for the Love Pain Killer himself it is clear that there is something happening under the surface—she must have an ulterior motive. The problem is that the other women don’t—they are just looking for guys to hang on to and it is obvious that just about any guy will do.

I can’t imagine seeing this movie in a theater—it is what the fast forward button was made for.

Recommended only for those (like me) who will see anything with a favorite actress.


Reviewer Score: 4