La Brassiere (2001)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2005-10-04
Summary: How to make a good comedy
Men have been trying to understand, illustrate and interpret the mental and emotional lives of women for millennia. Attempting to describe how a woman thinks and feels about love has been a major part of the works of Shakespeare, Goethe, Molière and Dante. It has inspired some of the greatest poetry, music and drama of the Western canon—and the great works of the rest of the world, I am sure, although I am not very familiar with them. Movie directors and screenwriters have been just as willing as their text based counterparts to struggle with the depths of the female psyche.

So it isn’t surprising that Patrick Leung and Chan Hing-Kar have made an attempt with their romantic comedy, “La Brassiere”. They come to the conclusion that women want to feel comforted and protected when embraced and that the key to figuring this out is also the key to designing underwear that will be easy to produce for the factory, easy to market for the retailers, both comfortable and pleasurable to wear for the buyer and make a ton of money for the designers. It is not a completely convincing look into the mind of the tender sex, but neither were the sonnets of Petrarch or the novels of D. H. Lawrence.

There is a lot to like about “La Brassiere”. Louis Koo, playing the designer Wayne, is as talented and versatile an actor as anyone now working, and leads an extraordinary cast. Koo goes from strength to strength. He is good in comedy or romance. He can play a triad chieftain or an ordinary citizen driven to murder by circumstance. He can transcend mediocre material and illuminate good writing. He is a real movie star, comfortable in his fame and never simply playing “Louis Koo”. Lau Ching-Wan completes the male yin/yang coupling. Lau’s Johnny is younger, more conventionally handsome and a bit wilder than Wayne.

Seasoned pro Carina Lau is Wayne’s love interest. Samantha, the tough as nails president of the lingerie firm, was her 54th movie or TV role and she is as sexy and delectable as ever. She is credible when, after a night of passion with Wayne, she simply tells him to clean up the office and get to work—it was very nice rolling around with him on piles of pink fabric but that was last night—time of punch the clock and start designing. The strikingly beautiful Gigi Leung is the former chief designer who now has to work with the as yet unproven Wayne and Johnny. She is unhappy that they are brought in as her equals and also impervious to Johnny’s charms—a lack of response that makes her (or at least conquering her) all the more desirable for him. Karen Mok is excellent in a thankless but well-written role.

The surprising effect that Wayne and Johnny have on women—at least the women who work for the bra company—is shown when they first walk in the door. They are the first male employees of the firm and, based on the response the get, might be the first men that this particular group of women has ever seen. They faint, swoon, trip over chairs, drop work on the floor and just act silly. While it seems at first that this is simply a shared fantasy of the two men, subsequent action indicates that the filmmakers wanted to show them as quite fascinating to most women.

On key element of the movie is that Wayne and Johnny, no matter how juvenile they might sometimes act, are serious designers who have done excellent work in the past (although not for women’s clothing) and who are committed to the success of the project. They work very long hours, are willing to put up with public humiliation while doing “market research” and never stop trying to figure out just what makes a particular bra something that women will want to buy. A part of this is the costume design—Koo and Lau are almost always in sharp suits that drape properly and fit them well. These are guys who know good clothing and who take their new jobs very seriously, even though they also know how to have a good time.

“La Brassiere” is a very entertaining romp and is highly recommended. It is superior to and much more enjoyable than a great deal of what Hollywood thinks is romantic comedy these days. The guys in Tinseltown have learned (and appropriated) quite a bit from John Woo and his action brethren and from the Japanese horror masters. They could pick up some pointers on the comedy front as well.
Reviewer Score: 8