Heart Into Hearts (1990)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2007-01-15
“Heart into Hearts” is a standard issue romantic comedy with a very attractive and talented cast, decent writing and competent direction. Whether one will like it (or stick with it long enough to decide) depends on one’s attitude toward outrageously spoiled children.

Ho, Alex’s cousin from Canada, shows up in Hong Kong with his two young children in tow. They have apparently raised themselves since Ho works as a chef on a cruise liner and his wife, their mother, left him for a foreigner. The act as if they have never supervision by or even much contact with adults. A very little bit of bratty kid comedy goes a long way with me but “Heart into Hearts” was marginally worth sitting through the kid stuff.

Alex is a long suffering ad agency creative director with a long client list, a team of wacky copywriters, a lovely assistant who is hopelessly in love with him and Ngor, his fiancé who lives with him part time and wants to make things permanent. Ngor’s daughter and Ho, his cousin, balance out the domestic equation.

Trouble arises when Alex has to work with Jo, a commercial director who is “difficult”. Since he can’t stand the way Jo works, going so far as to put in for the first annual leave he has taken in years rather than do another assignment, we know that sparks may fly before long. Alex and Jo manage to stay out of each other’s arms because each is almost preternaturally noble in dealing with the other. While things soon get beyond the professional colleagues stage they never stray into real intimacy. Their reserve is matched by the over the top behavior of Ho and Ngor. Ho is a bit of a lout who fits in perfectly with the boorish but harmless writing team while Ngor deals with every domestic crisis with a demand to get married right away.

The real intimacy between Ngor and Alex is best shown during an argument they have while in Paris, the result of a series of not particularly funny missed encounters and mistaken impressions. The argument is serious—the entire tone of the movie changes for a few minutes—as each of them approach then back away from blurting out the unforgivable, each knowing that he or she could destroy the relationship with the wrong word but each unwilling (but only barely) to do so. This scene is by far the most involving few minutes of the movie, the part where the audience realizes that even with all the faults Alex and Ngor have shown they like them and want to see them work as a couple.

Maggie Cheung, at close to the height of her almost limitless powers, plays Jo. She is glammed up admirably—there are a couple of shots from this film that have been published in hundreds of web sites and magazine articles. Jo is simply someone who does everything at her own pace and gets everything right. When we first see Jo she is in the process of throwing out everything that Alex has done for a commercial and redoing on the fly—the client, of course, loves it. George Lam as Alex matches her move for move. He is hard working, overburdened and completely decent but without enough time to decide what is really important in his life. We are shown just how busy he is when in the first scenes of the movie he is shown in the stall of the men’s room, doing the schematics for a commercial on a roll of toilet paper—the only place he could find (very temporarily) an uninterrupted moment.

Carol Cheng and Hui Siu-Hung provide most the laughs—not surprisingly they are very good at it. Their first confrontation, when Ngor thinks that the unexpectedly (for her) visiting Ho is a triad society member coming to rob or rape her, sets the tone of their relationship. She drives Ho from the apartment at knifepoint, only to have him return with his two kids a few minutes later. Ho thinks she is too old and too unattractive to be his cousin’s betrothed while Ngor thinks that he is an uncultured boob from the wilds of Canada. Vivian Chow is along for the ride as Vivian, Ngor’s daughter, a gorgeous girl whose job was to be cute and look great, which she did.

There are a few scenes that rise above the level of typical romcom. One is a briefing that Alex gives his crew after they are hired for a shoot in Paris. He says that like the Vietnamese, people in France insist on speaking French and that instead of rice they eat bread and snails. Acculturation finished, it’s off to Paris.

Recommended but loses a bit for the bratty kids.
Reviewer Score: 7