Love Me, Love My Money (2001)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2007-04-25
Misers have been popular characters in literature for centuries. They are very tempting targets—while we all want money or the things that money can buy, a miser is one who loves the accumulation of money for its own sake. Like anyone afflicted with an obsession he can’t understand why others don’t think the same way and his inability to see how his own behavior sets him at odds with the rest of the world makes him an easy target. Some of the most memorable characters in literature have been penny pinchers: Ebenezer Scrooge from Dickens’s “A Christmas Story”; Harpagon, around whom Moliere’s “The Miser” is built; Shylock from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” and Plyushkin in Gogol’s “Dead Souls.” While Wong Jing’s delightful “Love me, Love my Money” isn’t quite on the same level as those works, he and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai created a note-perfect skinflint in Richard Ma.

In the past it was enough for the miser to be defeated, destroyed or ridiculed and his insane penuriousness shown to be evil. In our current post-Freudian, post-modern, pre-Apocalyptic times the story is about how the miserly billionaire feels about how other people feel about him. Richard Ma, consumed with getting and keeping money, is also very interested in if anyone—especially any woman—could be interested in him for his own sake. Since what he owns and controls defines what he is, this is a very dangerous question to ask.

Tom Yam, Richard’s accountant and only friend, tells him to forget the whole thing. The reality is that Ma is very wealthy and that any woman who might become involved with him will eventually fall in love with his money, a situation that he can’t change and should therefore enjoy—or at least accept. The truth of Yam’s view is made clear almost immediately. Arriving from overseas, Ma is confronted by his current girlfriend Martha, played by the stunning Wong Sum-Yue. Martha’s needs are simple—she wants half a million dollars (U.S). The apparently convenient fiction is that her mother in the United States needs the money for medical treatment. Ma goes so far as to say that since she is in her 60s that Martha’s mother won’t last long anyway so there is no point in spending money to prolong her life now. Martha counters by telling him to give the money or she will leave and Ma thinks that is a fine solution. She storms out and Ma assumes that he is finished with another relationship. Bad assumption. Real bad. Earlier it had been made clear that half a million dollars, while not exactly pocket change, would barely be a ripple in the constant river of cash flowing into Ma’s company.

Richard is about to get the answer to his question and also learn a hard lesson regarding being careful of what you wish for, since you might get it. Martha cancels all his credit cards and reports his ID card as stolen; Tom Yam is hospitalized after drunkenly smashing up his car so he can’t help; he has fired his entire staff in order to save money and his extremely loyal (one might say insanely loyal) secretary, played by the beautiful Cho Chun, quits after not having a raise or a day off for five years. Our hero has gone from billionaire to bum overnight. This has been used in quite a few comedies—funny ones like “Trading Places”, less than funny ones like “Taking Care of Business” and “Love Me, Love my Money” is one of the funny ones. It is reverse fairy tale, one in which the protagonist has to overcome his immediate problem—sudden and complete lack of money—and deal with his fundamental shortcoming—he is a jerk who loves money but has no time for people.

Shu Qi is Choi, a hardworking stockbroker who spends her days pounding the phones along with thousands like her. The gorgeous Theresa Mak Ga-Kei is Fong, her best friend and coworker. Richard is unwillingly recruited to pretend to be Choi’s fiancé so that Choi can escape the unwelcome attention of a geeky fat guy who stalks her and who her father thinks she should marry. She essentially hires him, thinking he is broke, as a ruse. While Choi and Richard skate around each other with Tom and Fong it is lust at first sight. They literally can’t wait to jump into bed with each other so they wind up coupling in some very uncomfortable places. The two best buddies are also the parallel opposites of the leads. Their relationship is simple and uncomplicated—they can’t keep their hands off each other—while the relationship of Choi and Richard is based on deceit and duplicity.

There is one scene, though, that makes us think a bit differently of Richard Ma. He is down to his last few coins, just enough to make a couple of phone calls. He tries some old girlfriends, women he obviously hasn’t thought of for years. The only person to respond is the Vanessa who gets out of a cab leading a young child and is heavily pregnant with another. According to the subtitles upon seeing her Richard says “You are fat and dull” which I assume doesn’t completely carry the meaning of the line. The reason this scene is important is that it shows that at one point Richard was a very different person than what he has become. Vanessa has come across town in the middle of her day in order to give him money—money which she takes from her housekeeping and will have to explain where it went to her husband. She isn’t surprised that Richard is broke, even saying that he doesn’t look like he has been robbed (the story he gave her on the phone) but that he has gone bankrupt. Vanessa even tells him not to bother paying her back until he is rich again. This scene is important because Vanessa obviously still thinks very well of Richard. It is clear there is no sexual spark anymore—she is just doing a good deed for someone who she knew in the past and who she remembers fondly. When she first emerges from the cab the audience thinks this will be a further humiliation for Richard but Wong Jing turns it into a lovely scene that validates Richard as something other than a wealthy jerk. And in some very economical filmmaking, he uses the end of the scene make Choi and Fong think that Richard is taking money from and living off of women.

Even though we know how “Love me, Love my Money” must end we enjoy getting there. One of the main reasons is a Wong Jing trademark—beautiful women. Except for Vanessa all the women that Richard deals with are strikingly attractive. His psychiatrist in New York City—in a scene that has nothing at all to do with the rest of the movie other than to show a misogynistic bias—is the lovely Angie Cheung Wai-Yee, a most comely mental health professional who thinks the best way to solve Richard’s problems is to seduce him. Even his mother as played by Helen Poon Bing-Seung is a woman who would turn heads—or at least turn mine.

But lovely actresses aren’t enough to keep one’s interest throughout a movie. We have to invest in the characters; we have to like them or at least be interested in how they will deal with the problems that come their way. In a romantic comedy like this we want them to be smart, sophisticated and funny and they are.

Reviewer Score: 8