Dry Wood Fierce Fire (2002)
I enjoyed Wilson Yip's last movie, 2002, quite a lot. Not a work of brilliance like his earlier movies Bullets Over Summer and Juliet In Love, but a positive sign that he was getting used to working with bigger budget/higher profile movies and casts. When I heard that he had a new movie called "Dry Wood, Fierce Fire", I was quite optimistic - I think that's one of the best movie titles I've heard in a while. When I heard it was a romantic comedy starring Miriam Yeung I was less excited... surely they don't need a director with the style, insight and intelligence that Yip has shown to make a romantic comedy? But Needing You and La Brassiere have perhaps proved that great directors can turn a romantic comedy into something more than box office fluff, so I was still cautiously excited.
DRY WOOD, FIERCE FIRE gets off to a promising start - we are introduced to Miriam Yeung's character as a child, where she is quite cute and quirky, and the key scenes of her development that we get to witness are both very strange and quite funny... it reminded me a little of the opening scenes of Amelie. With parents like Yuen King-Tan and Lo Meng, there was no doubt that Miriam (Alice) would grow up to be a little odd. Kooky perhaps. And lo, here is Miriam herself as the fully grown Alice, and how quirky she is! And so very, very annoying! Vaguely reminiscent of Sammi Cheng's character in LOVE ON A DIET (but not quite so fat), but... even more annoying. And at least in LOAD you felt it was because that's how the character was meant to be. Here, it's impossible to accurately decide whether Miriam is acting really badly or just not acting at all.
The plot, a vaguely LA BRASSIERE-esque setup... the female staff of a women's magazine and the male staff of a men's magazine suddenly find themselves working together when the magazines are merged. Mostly very very NEEDING YOU though, as Miriam and Louis Koo's characters are brought closer together as friends under the pretext that Louis is helping Miriam to be less geek-y and Miriam is helping Louis to make himself more attractive to super-cute boss Michelle (Flora Chan apparently?). Will they fall in love? Will they tell each other how they feel in time? 3 guesses...
There are some amusing moments, but for the most part it just feels so incredibly derivative there is just no excitement whatsoever about what might happen, how it all will end. I found myself praying for the movie to throw some kind of curve ball that showed it wasn't sticking like glue to the romantic comedy formula, but it doesn't. It just gets more and more derivative as it progresses, to the point it could be interchanged with pretty much any fluffy romantic comedy without anyone noticing. In some movies, the characters and the performances and the little details elevate the movie above fluff status, but nothing here has that effect. Louis Koo is flat, Miriam Yeung never gets any less annoying or shows any sign of actually acting, and an interesting supporting cast are extremely underused.
I didn't walk out of the movie, but I was quite tempted to do so since viewing it seemed basically redundant when I've seen the other movies whose patterns it clings to so closely. Perhaps I was hoping that it was all just a cruel joke, and in the final reel at least *something* interesting would happen. Not a chance. So horribly formulaic, so shallow and candy-coloured, so completely pointless... and Miriam is *so* annoying.
Definitely not recommended I'm afraid.