The Perfect Match (1991)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2008-03-06
Summary: Maggie is divine
As “The Perfect Match” begins we see Vivian Chow who is part of a gang of shoplifters. Wearing a maternity dress over a hugely padded belly, she pretends to go into labor in the middle of a crowded store. This distracts shoppers and employees so that the other gang members can stuff valuable items into bags and run for the door. The gang is led by Jacky Cheung who seems to enjoy causing trouble for shopkeepers and wealthy individuals as much as the money he gets from stealing. His sister is Maggie Cheung, a hard working welder who looks fetching in her coveralls with her welder's mask pushed up and who spends most of her free time thwarting her brother's clumsy plots.

George Lam is a symphony conductor who returns to Hong Kong after an absence of ten years for performances with a local orchestra. Hui Siu-Hung is the public relations guy who greases the wheels for the conductor, getting him settled in his room, taking care of tips, asking if he wants a girl sent up. Kingdom Yuen is his assistant. Both of them are sexually voracious, very clumsy approaching their targets and always unsuccessful. Lydia Shum is Vivian's mother who is both overprotective of her and addicted to mahjong. Seven main characters, six arranged as couples although four of them don't know it yet.

Most of the principals were in another Stephen Shin produced and directed romantic comedy, “Heart into Hearts”. Written, as was this movie by Tony Leung Hung-Wah it was released the year before. The turn of that decade was a very busy time in the Hong Kong movie business. Everyone was making movies every day: Jacky Cheung mugged his way through roles in twenty-six films released in 1989, 1990 and 1991; Maggie Cheung was in twenty; Stephen Shin produced the astounding total of sixteen, seven of which he directed; Tony Leung Hung-Wah had twelve of his scripts hit the screen during that time. Given this level of activity one would expect a professional product generated by experienced artists who were used to working quickly but nothing special. Planning and logistics would be as important as creativity—get X camera set-ups done per day which means Y pages of script per week, keep the set design simple and cheap, the blocking straightforward and the action elementary.

In this case one would be wrong. While “The Perfect Match” is a not very romantic nor very funny romantic comedy with stock characters and situations, it may have been the movie in which Maggie Cheung took her place among the most alluring and photogenic film actresses of all time. While she has been more elegant: “In the Mood for Love” and “Centre Stage” or flashier: “Green Snake” and “Hero”, she has never been more beautiful. Without overstating the case in the least, she was like a goddess who dropped in to allow the mortals making and then watching this film to gaze on her exquisite Magginess. With her perfect skin, cheekbones to die for, elegant jaw line combined with a lot of close-ups of sidelong or angry looks it was as if she had come from the planet Gorgeous. She was like Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, Guinevere, Diaochan or Bathsheba, women for whom men fought wars, gave up kingdoms and betrayed their birthrights. There was even, wonder of wonders, some shots with a hint of cleavage—for those interested they were the scenes on the roof of her apartment building.

There isn’t much else to recommend. I find neither George Lam nor Jacky Cheung noteworthy actors. Vivian Chow was lovely, Lydia Shum was funny, the conductor’s old friends from the neighborhood were annoying and the motorcycle stunt driving was well done and convincing. Cynthia Khan showed up in one of the most unnecessary cameos ever. She had a couple of lines as Vivian’s cousin from England. Sticking close to type she was a police inspector back in the UK and looked every bit the ultracompetent Yes, Madam.

Huge sections of the movie simply didn’t work at all. Most of the scenes involving Jacky’s gang of delinquents—a very non-hardcore group of young criminals—were boring at best, embarrassing at worst. Particularly atrocious were the scenes after they decided that rehearsing makeshift Chinese opera was more fun than stealing stuff. Those who appreciate Jacky Cheung’s brand of comic acting more than I do—most people—may find these scenes more palatable.