Call Girl '92 (1992)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2007-03-14
“Call Girl 92” makes it that clear that size matters—the size of the earrings dangling from a woman’s lobes shows if she is lady of negotiable virtue or not. When the audience first sees Carmen (Sharla Cheung Man) she is a demure housewife, dutifully if incongruously tagging along with her husband to a business meeting in a bar full of prostitutes. Her small, tasteful earrings indicate that she is out of place. After her own journey down the primrose path begins her earrings are huge dangling objects that look like miniature chandeliers and mark her as securely as did Hester Prynne’s scarlet A.

Carmen also wears glasses with heavy black frames—a universal cinematic marker for plain-Janeness-- and a dowdy if expensive looking suit. It is clear that she is uncomfortable and her husband’s friends think her presence takes the edge off the evening so everyone is relieved when he tells her to go home. Carmen has, however, met a former classmate who works at the bar.

A parallel is shown between the domestic life of Carmen and husband—she eats breakfast alone while he staggers in from his night on the town telling the maid to run his bath and call the office but without a word for her and that of Nancy (Cecilia Yip Tung) and her mother who steals money from her while she sleeps. Both families are unhappy, each unhappy in its own way—and while all happy families may be alike we couldn’t tell from this movie since there aren’t any.

Nancy lives the classic hooker lifestyle. She hates men, screaming at her very young daughter when she finds her playing with a boy her own age. She drinks constantly, even spiking the chicken soup that her saintly aunt (Teresa Ha Ping) makes for her. Her aunt raises her daughter since Nancy’s begins early in the evening and ends when she stumbles drunkenly into bed as the sun comes up. She is honest about her profession—when her new neighbor and potential boyfriend asks what she does for a living she replies “I’m a hooker.” While none of the roles rise above the stereotypical banality that characterizes most movie treatments of prostitutes, Nancy is given a few scenery chewing scenes and Yip does a good job with them.

Not so with the other Yip in the cast, Veronica Yip Yuk-Hing. Her Sue is a bit closer to the street than the others and is always looking for the main chance. She thinks she has snagged a winner—a South African Chinese man whose family owns diamond and coal mines and who falls in love with her even before he sleeps with her. True to her roots, though, she decides at the last minute to stay in Hong Kong saying that she doesn’t really approve of emigration. Sue returns to her semi-gangster boyfriend showing she truly has a heart of gold. There is one delightful scene in which Sue gives the newly recruited (and newly divorced) Carmen a lesson in how to entice a potential customer. Both of them are wearing low cut flaming red dresses and leaning against the hood of a Bentley while Carmen is instructed.

Carmen’s most important lessons—other than the one from her husband who has his lawyer tell her he is divorcing her and then dismisses her when she finds him in bed with another woman—come from Liza, in a note perfect performance by Carrie Ng Ka-Lai. Liza is the undisputed leader of the women. She runs the meetings where they decide who will service which client that evening, is the driver when they hit the road on their way to work and, most importantly, controls the money. She also seduces the not unwilling Carmen after she deals with Carmen’s panic at her first assignation. That they have become a Sapphic couple is clear a bit later on.

The men in the movie are just there as reflections of the strengths and weaknesses of the women. They don’t develop and are uninteresting. Carmen’s husband isn’t really evil—he is just a total jerk, the kind of person you try to avoid. Nancy’s new neighbor and potential boyfriend leaves suddenly—he is the first bar musician recruited by the Vienna Philharmonic. That was as likely as the space program of the PRC offering him the job of lead astronaut but at least made sense in the context of the movie.

The four leads looked great in their de rigueur stiletto pumps and revealing evening dresses, almost always in black, red or white--the wardrobe department had it petty easy on this one—and their make-up and hair was perfectly done. Only Cecilia Yip had any extended screen time in civilian clothes, costumes in which she looked quite fetching.

The plot took care of itself. None of the four main roles were original or even well written with each of the women going through very predictable crises and resolving them. Sue was back with her tough guy boyfriend, Nancy was trying to reconnect with her daughter (her aunt was off to Shanghai to nurse a sick relative) Liza had Carmen and Carmen was delighted when her ex-husband tried to crawl back to her and she was able to tell him that he couldn’t afford her.

A not bad movie about not really bad girls—worth seeing for a few good scenes and four very beautiful women.
Reviewer Score: 5