5.6/10
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1 user 3 critic

The Lady Improper (2019)

Siu Man is a nurse who has lost who she is as a person. Her marriage has ended partly due to her fear of intimacy and, having been abandoned by her husband, she now faces losing her father ... See full summary »

Director:

Tsui Shan Tsang

Writers:

Anna Yuet Shan Lai (original story), Link Sng (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Charlene Choi ... Yuen Siu Man
Kang Ren Wu ... Jiahao (as Kang-Jen Wu)
Tony Liu ... Ping (as Wing Lau)
Cecilia Yip ... Lin
Deep Ng Deep Ng ... Siu Man's Ex-husband
Alex Tak-Shun Lam ... Him
Hedwig Tam ... Moon
Ashina Kwok Ashina Kwok ... Ginger Lady (as Yik-Sum Kwok)
Tai-Bo ... Uncle Keung
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Chi-Shing Au Chi-Shing Au ... Kid in Ginger Store
Chuen-Wah Chan Chuen-Wah Chan ... Young Ping
Daniel Yee Heng Chan Daniel Yee Heng Chan ... Cheong (Wing Kee's Customer)
Po-Yan Chan Po-Yan Chan ... Strip Dancer in Party
Tsz-Fung Chan Tsz-Fung Chan ... Pole Dance Audience
Wing-Yin Chan Wing-Yin Chan ... Little Siu-Man's Mother
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Storyline

Siu Man is a nurse who has lost who she is as a person. Her marriage has ended partly due to her fear of intimacy and, having been abandoned by her husband, she now faces losing her father after he is hospitalised. Siu Man decides to reboot her life by taking over her father's restaurant but without the experience of being a chef, she has to hire someone. In steps Chia-hao, a Paris-trained cordon bleu chef, who is a free spirit but also treats cooking as serious philosophy and is able to recreate her father's culinary style. It seems that the handsome chef cooks up a storm in and out of the kitchen as he helps Siu Man learn to deliver delicious food and his delicious looks arouses her desire. Through him, Siu Man faces her fear of intimacy head-on and liberates herself.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

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Details

Official Sites:

Official Facebook

Country:

Hong Kong

Release Date:

4 April 2019 (Hong Kong) See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Soundtracks

Diamonds in the Dark
Lyrics by Kotoriko Kusama & Olivia Burrell
Music by Masamichi Shigeno
Performed by Olivia Burrell
[A Song Within A Play]
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User Reviews

 
Weak character work and a too-subdued performance by Charlene Choi, however bold by her tame standards, makes this drama about sexual liberation feel impotent
27 March 2019 | by moviexclusiveSee all my reviews

Much has been said about Charlene Choi's bold performance in 'The Lady Improper', which not only sees her show more skin than you would expect from someone who used to pride herself on her squeaky-clean teenage idol image, but also has her engage in a passionate love-making scene on a kitchen table-top with her Taiwanese co-star Wu Kang-jen. Yet all that hype may end up working against Choi and the movie's favour by setting up somewhat unrealistic expectations of her performance, which while certainly audacious by the actress's own tame standards, will likely come off a lot milder than what her character as well as the movie needs it to be.

Chiefly, the movie demands that we believe in the character transformation of Siu Man (played by Choi), who starts off as a sexually repressed woman unable to consuumate her marriage to her ex-husband Kuen (Deep Ng), but whose psychological inhibitions gradually dissipate after she meets the free-spirited chef Jiahao (played by Wu). Neither state is however portrayed compellingly enough in the film, such that we never fully buy into why she was so uptight in the first place, and/or therefore how her interactions with Jiahao would set her on the path to sexual liberation, even with say some pole dancing added into the mix.

A significant part of why we can never invest completely in Siu Man is due to the imperfect script (co-written by director Tsang Tsui-shan and Link Sng), which fails to find a clear raison d'etre to Siu Man's state of mind in the first place. There are late hints to how she had a very strict upbringing by her father Ping (veteran martial arts actor Lau Wing) after losing her mother at a young age, but not quite enough texture to their father-daughter relationship for us to be convinced how that has led her to be so high-strung. Similarly, it isn't clear why she seems unable to fully give herself to Kuen despite being in love with him, especially given how she seems to want him back badly enough at the start to beg him for a second chance with a mechanical dildo.

On the other hand, Siu Man's relationship with Jiahao comes off muddled, leaving us unsure just why he will be the one to unleash her passions. Is it because she is physically attracted to him? Or because she outwardly mocks, but inwardly admires, his happy-go-lucky attitude? Or is she grateful to him for rescuing her father's 'cha chaan teng' business by whipping up the restaurant's former signature dishes of Hakka-style pork belly and traditional steamed tofu? Or perhaps she is also jealous of the attractive lady (Ashina Kwok) selling ginger at the local market whom Jiahao flirts with, and whom she observes Jiahao having sex with on the kitchen stove? Whether it is one or a combination of these reasons, their relationship needs sharper definition, in order for us to be persuaded why Jiahao is her sexual elixir.

It doesn't help that the story introduces an unnecessary supporting character next to Siu Man and Jiahao in Ah Him (Alex Lam), a regular at the 'cha chaan teng' restaurant who has a big crush on Siu Man and whom she agrees to go out. Not only is Ah Him a clumsily sketched caricature, it is more than a little cruel that she seems to hook up with him just to spite Jiahao, and breaks up with him after he proves too conservative to accept her pole dancing routine. Oh yes, the movie would have been much better served simply focusing on the attraction between Siu Man and Jiahao, so as to give some much-needed clarity just what each means to the other.

To make up for the narrative deficiencies would have needed an out-and-out candid performance by the lead actress, and it is in this regard that Choi's acting, however audacious by her own standards, is still not daring enough to save the movie. Indeed, Choi is not only too restrained in displaying Siu Man's repressions at the start, but also too muted to convince us that she is both physically and emotionally liberated by the end. At the risk of sounding lewd, Choi would need to really let go for us to be captivated by her character transformation, and her discomfort at going all out both physically and emotionally (which she herself has said in numerous media interviews) dulls what should be a gripping portrait of female emancipation.

So as much as she has been the selling point of 'The Lady Improper', Choi is also the reason why the movie with its flaws and all isn't as compelling as it should be. Like we said, such a character-driven story needs tighter and sharper scripting, in order to define the central characters better as well as their focal relationship. But equally, Choi should either have chosen to strip away her own inhibitions completely or stepped away from the role, rather than end up in a 'middle ground' that is too subdued for the film's good. As it is, both the movie and her character come off less improper than impotent, and will leave you unmoved, unconvinced and unsatisfied.


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