Itchy Heart (2004)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2006-02-24
“Itchy Heart” is a romantic comedy with some winning performances and almost no plot. It refers directly to “The Seven Year Itch”, the brilliant dark comedy by Billy Wilder both in its title and dialog but this a movie that probably won’t be remembered by the talented cast that made it, while fans and critics can quote pages of dialog from “The Seven Year Itch”. It also contains the one of the iconic images of U.S. film, Marilyn Monroe standing over the subway grating. “Itchy Heart” has no such images; its dialog is unmemorable, the characters are thinner than cardboard cutouts and the payoff is completely unbelievable. While movies like this thrive on improbable coincidence, the audience has to have something invested in the outcome for it to accept that a once in a billion chance would actually happen. “Itchy Heart” gives no reason for such an investment.

Lau Ching-Wan is wonderful as Poon Chi-Man, the husband on the loose in the fleshpots of Hong Kong while his wife takes a shopping trip in Japan with a friend. He makes the most of the only properly developed role in the movie. Lau makes it seem almost inevitable that he will be successful when after seven years of monogamy he hits the clubs cruising for chicks. In one evening he picks up both a hot young thing and a former girlfriend who is still pining for him even though he is older and squarer than most the men in the club. The young woman is Cherry, winningly impersonated by Cherrie Ying who is cuter than a box full of puppies. She has almost nothing to do other than act cute and does it quite well. Carina Lau plays Bing, the ex-girlfriend and pretty much phones in her role which is, unfortunately, all that it deserved. Neither of these characters develops—both simply provide either plot points in Poon’s story or as foils for Lau Ching-Wan. For example in a scene cited below by John R in which both Poon and Bing are getting foot massages and talking about old times, Bing all but recedes into the woodwork. On an ill-fated camping trip, Cherry tells Poon that she laughs when a man touches her but melts when he cries. Cherry actually does disappear while Lau Ching-Wan mugs, cries and sprays himself in the eyes with insect repellent. It is impossible to tell from the evidence in “Itchy Heart” if Andy On is a terrible actor or just a bad actor stuck in a role from hell.

Wil is quick to anger, insanely jealous, ill-mannered and quite stupid. There is one scene with Cherrie Ying toward the end of the movie in which Wil doesn’t do anything other than hold a coffee cup. It is as if Ying was playing against a blue screen and On was keyed in later—one’s attention is drawn to him because he is so inert and lifeless. One assumes that the role was written this way—it is one that would have frustrated Toshiro Mifune or Robert De Niro so Andy doesn’t have a chance. Coco Chiang Yi as Mrs. Poon was a bonus. She is gorgeous and placid in a role that required only placidity and looks quite fetching while eating salad. Her character was flatly unbelievable during the scene which laid the basis for the final recognition between husband and wife. It wasn’t the actress’ fault—it would have been impossible for anyone to sell the line that she had returned from Japan early because she won a trip to the Maldives in a drawing and was just dropping in for some resort wear.

For the recognition scene itself to work the audience needs to buy into a one in a million coincidence happening and by the time it came about the filmmakers had forfeited any right to a willing suspension of disbelief. By then one just didn’t care what happened to them as long as it happened quickly.

The lack of plot—and possible lack of interest by the screenwriters—was papered over with a couple of lyrical musical interludes with Poon, first with Cherry then with Bing, playfully cavorts in quick cuts while sticky sweet pop music swells on the soundtrack. Further padding was provided by Iceberg, a very handsome canine, whose appearance, disappearance and reappearance helped to keep things limping along in the second half of the movie.

Recommended only for Lau Ching-Wan’s performance and some lovely shots of Hong Kong from a helicopter and Hokkaido from a Ferris wheel.
Reviewer Score: 2