Touted as Asia's answer to the phenomenally popular TV's Sex and the City, Tsui Hark's (yet) another "comeback" film, ALL ABOUT WOMEN, sees the once-mighty filmmaker revives back the populist comedies he used to make them so successfully back in the '80s and the '90s. At the surface level, the movie's plot sounds promising -- it centers on three different women in contemporary Beijing as they are struggling their daily life searching for l-o-v-e.
The first one to be introduced is Fanfan (Zhou Xun), a clumsy doctor who works as a doctor in the ultrasound department of a pristine medical center, has this so-called "selective sclerosis", in which she'll turn like a hard piece of board whenever she's touched by men. So she comes up with her formula called "love pheromones", in which she requires to stick the little clear patch on a body to develop some kind of romantic aura that will drive men wild with lust. The first man she experimented is Xiaogang (Stephen Fung), an indie rocker who resembles her old dance instructor, who disappeared one day mumbling something about how 10,000 people every year involved in car crashes. On the other end is Tang Lu (Kitty Zhang), a high-powered femme fatale who attracts men like crazy just by oozing her sexuality and her drop-dead gorgeous outlook. Despite her beauty, she doesn't have any real friends and the only person she always be with is her mousy male secretary, Mo Qiyan (Eddie Peng). She's out to prove her so-called "talent" but not her looks, by instructing her plain-looking colleague Tian Yuan (Shen Chang), pretend to be her while securing a deal with environmentalist Wu Mong-Gu (Alex Fong Chung-Sun). Lastly it's the 19-year-old Tie Ling (Kwai Lun-Mei), a teen poet/novelist/indie rocker who practices boxing and imagines that she's dating a pop superstar named X (Godfrey Kao). Whereas people around her are bewildered by her strange behavior, she doesn't bother a bit when she is seen frequently talking to her imaginary boyfriend in public. But she has a real secret admirer in her midst --- who is happened to be Mo Qiyan. Apparently he adores her bohemian style and weird attitude, that he follows her everywhere all the time. Three of these women are eventually intersecting one after another in a wacky situation that goes spectacularly awry -- let's just say it involves this "love pheromone" stickers.
Written by Tsui Hark and MY SASSY GIRL-scribe Kwak Jae-Yong, the movie has all the essential trademark that is pure Hark -- breathless pace, bizarre ideas, schizophrenic storyline, feminist themes, broad slapstick and technical razzle-dazzle. Despite all the promising setup, the movie is a questionably huge chunk of mess that Hark and Kwak doesn't seem to be sure which direction they really want to go to. Sure, Hark's previous comedies in the past has always been incoherent but they are entertaining enough to keep one hooked from start till the end. Not so for ALL ABOUT WOMEN, which not only annoyingly over-the-top (especially the one involving those "love pheromone" stickers) but also confusing as well if you don't pay attention enough. Despite nonstop humor and wacky sight gags flying off left and right, the jokes are mostly misses the intentional mark, though there are some notable ones -- like the one involved Tang Lu goes "lusting" over Wu while they stuck in a car wash. Then the movie is also overlong, and bears too many unnecessary set-pieces needed for some serious editing.
Still all three female stars are credible, with Zhou Xun effectively channeling the goofy charm of Josephine Siao especially that huge glasses of her, and Kwai Lun-Mei is wonderfully playful. But this is Kitty Zhang's real breakthrough -- unlike CJ7, she shows both magnetic screen presence and fine comic timing here.
Sadly though, the movie is a colossal misfire that Hark continues to see his career decline deeper and deeper.