Private Life (1987)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2007-10-04
Summary: For Joey Wong fans only!
“Private Life” is a salacious tale of greed, betrayal and sexual degradation that manages to be distasteful and prurient without revealing anything interesting about the characters. Under the credits we see the almost unbelievably beautiful Joey Wong being crowned as Miss Hong Kong. In the next scene, looking even more fetching in a form-fitting ivory knit suit with a short skirt and very wide belt cinching her waist, she is arriving in Singapore to have sex for money with a wealthy man. An extremely wealthy man, someone who makes the Sultan of Brunei look like a cheapskate. Sam (our heroine) is met at the airport by a platoon on servants in two white Bentleys—one possibly as a spare in case the first one breaks down. She is put in a hotel suite the size of a furniture showroom although she only uses it to freshen up. She and her client drink a glass of Champagne, dance to the tune of a string quartet and wind up in bed. Morning comes along with her flight back to Hong Kong and no apparent doubts concerning her way of life.

What would be interesting, of course, is how and why she went from Miss Hong Kong to Miss Roundheels and particularly how she hooked up with Ricky, a repulsively uncharismatic pimp overacted with almost palpable exuberance by Si Lau-Wau. Sam is the pride of his stable of “models”, a group of very attractive young women who seem happy enough to have chosen the primrose path. She is more picky than they concerning with whom she will sleep and if her first client is an indication of her earning power Sam could do very well on a few clients a year. There is one bit of prostitute verisimilitude--she refuses customers from Hong Kong, in an attempt to keep her name clean in her home town.

The reason that Sam is working at such a degrading trade is that old stand-by, a family to support. Unfortunately this is a family that should be able to do quite well without her monthly check. Dad apparently doesn’t work because of rheumatism, Mom spends her time belittling Dad and her brother is a strapping college student who should be able to make a few bucks himself. That they life in a spacious apartment shows they are doing quite well. Sam’s family is a bunch of freeloaders who don’t question how their daughter is able to support the three of them but happily take her money every month.

On the flight back she meets George who is tall, good looking and a crashing bore. George Leung walks through the role which is all that it deserves. He is married to a Doris, shrewish woman and is employed by her father, a multi-billionaire. Like Sam in Singapore he is met by a Bentley although this one contains his wife who yells at him on the concourse, tells him it is his fault the plane was late and drags him to a cocktail party. Sam witnesses the marital discord and falls in love.

They have a very public affair—the shop in the afternoon in an area where the local gossip columnists also troll for information and even go pheasant hunting. Among all the ways that a loving couple could spend time together in Hong Kong, upland bird hunting is one of the least likely. A confrontation with a rural weirdo leads later to George being hospitalized and an uncomfortable and well acted and shot few minutes when Sam visits him while Doris and her father are there. Doris is suspicious but since she is also crazy we think she would be suspicious of anyone who visited George.

Sam and George are seen together by friends of Doris who can’t wait to tell her about it. Everything unravels very untidily—a disgusting client is killed, a pimp proves to be unreliable, Sam’s family turns against her and one of the poorest written trials I have ever seen on film takes place. While we don’t expect the action onscreen to follow the Rules of Criminal Procedure of the Queen’s Bench the trial must at least make sense from some point of view, which this one doesn’t.

Other than Sam, Doris is the only interesting character in the film. George is a nonentity, Ricky the pimp is venal and corrupt but Doris is as insane as any of the over the top nut cases who have appeared in movies. A good movie could be made about her—even after she has been publicly rejected and humiliated by her husband, even after he has testified that he never loved her, has grown to hate her and would be happier dead than with her, she wants him back. And she is always accompanied by her father. This is one sick woman and could have been given some scenery chewing fun.

The only reason to see this movie is Joey Wong. She is monstrously beautiful with one of the most perfect faces shown on film over the past 25 years. The filmmakers make the most of their only real asset, filling the screen with some extremely close close-ups, shooting her from a low angle as she walks into a room wearing a short skirt, lingering on her when the action has moved elsewhere. She is by no means an exceptional actress—in this case her comeliness may have worked against her—why bother sending her challenging scripts when all the producer needs is for her to show up?

Recommended only for fans of Joey Wong but highly recommended for them.

Four points for her, minus one point for everything else.
Reviewer Score: 3