Girls Unbutton (1994)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2007-04-08
“Girls Unbutton” is a sex comedy in which Jenny, winningly played by Rachel Lee Lai-Chun, is on a tireless search for true love. Jenny is smart, attractive, goes out of her way to help people and loves to have sex—no wonder she can’t find the right guy. When the story opens she has already been through eighteen relationships. Based on the three that are depicted here they probably ended in the death, disgrace or despair of the object of her love. She is both abetted and hindered by her two close friends who try to make her into a “strongwoman in love” (at least according to the subtitles) who doesn’t fall in love but who simply takes her pleasure as she wants. The friends also take part in some titillating but fully clothed slap and tickle with Jenny.

Jenny’s quest reminds me “Candy” the 1970’s ironic/erotic/pornographic/satirical novel by Terry Southern in which the eponymous heroine is on a similar pursuit and leaves a trail of men behind her, all of them worse off for their encounter with her. We find out Jenny’s troubled romantic history because she records and comments on it with accompanying voice-over, a device that ties together the otherwise not very well related episodes of the movies. Lung Mao (Elvis Tsu) is gang leader who falls in love with Jenny. He is so entranced by her that he ignores most of his followers being slaughtered by a rival gang just outside the glass walls of a restaurant where he has taken her for their first date. After some extremely energetic sex in an alley he grabs a chopper and goes after the other gang, killing about ten of them but being killed by them.

Her next paramour is Pong Kwong Yim, a legislator who is running for governor of what will be the new Special Administrative Region after the takeover by the PRC. Pong wants to leave his wife, a woman who switches from seemingly insane to cool and calculating from day to day. Yeung Yuk-Mui plays Mrs. Pong with gleeful verve while David Siu Chung-Hang is appropriately servile and slimy as her husband. When a party leader tells Pong that a candidate has to have a stable family Pong immediately dumps Jenny and rescinds the divorce from his wife. He is completely besotted, though, careening back and forth between them for the second half of the movie.

Jenny’s third conquest is Ho, a loser type who tries of commit suicide by throwing himself into the sea weighted down by backpacks full of rocks—one of the backpacks has the universally despised “happy face” stenciled on it. Jenny is an expert swimmer—she bonded with Mao while teaching him to swim and rescues Ho. It isn’t that difficult, though, since the water where he jumped is only about three feet deep. It isn’t long before Ho gives up (temporarily) the idea of ending it all since he has fallen in love with her. Ho’s sister is extraneous to the plot but her character is more than welcome since she is played by the sultry Mikie Ng Miu-Yee and is either naked or barely dressed in most of her scenes.

Each of the suitors wants to give Jenny a boat and each presents her with a model of their dream vessel, which is either ironic or simply nonsensical because she gets violently seasick when afloat. I may have missed the explanation as to why this makes sense. The boats may represent a way to flee the coming takeover, to emigrate or simply sail away from the changes about to sweep over Hong Kong. The payoff of the movie happens when Ho appears on a real boat, one that has been modified so that it operates only on land and steers itself.

There are references to the looming takeover, including, of course, Pong’s campaign for governor. For example Jenny asks Pong if their love, at least according to the subtitles, “will bridge 1997” which may have been an advertising slogan or political assurance at the time. The arrival of the PRC dominated many movies of the early and mid 1990s but here it is used as a funny throwaway line.

“Girls Unbutton” is a harmless, sporadically entertaining film filled with images of attractive actresses who are skimpily dressed—plenty of bikinis and sundresses—or naked and is recommended, although not very highly, for that reason.
Reviewer Score: 5