Yesterday Once More (2004) / Romance-Comedy
aka In the Nick of Love
aka Lung Fung Dau
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG for mild violence and mild sensuality
Running Time: 96 min.
Cast: Andy Lau, Sammi Cheng, Jenny Hu, Carl Ng (Carl Wu)
Director: Johnny To
Screenplay: The Hermit, Au Kin Yee
Director Johnny To (Fulltime Killer, Help!!!) reunites with the proven duo of Sammi Cheng (Magic Kitchen, Infernal Affairs) and Andy Lau (House of Flying Daggers, Dance of a Dream) for their third collaboration together, coming off of the hit Hong Kong romantic comedies, Needing You and Love on a Diet. It all adds up to a big hit on its own, although this time, the chemistry between the two leads isn't enough to save the movie from lackluster plotting and clichéd turns of events. You've seen this kind of movie many times, with its hip retro vibe, recalling The Thomas Crown Affair, and the comic caper aspect puts it in the subgenre where the new versions of Ocean's Eleven and The Italian Job reside. It is knowingly derivative, except To adds a new twist to the story, and unfortunately, this development is also what sandbags it in the end.
Lau and Cheng play a divorced team of jewel thieves who share a passion for money and material objects, but that passion has gotten in the way of their passion for each other. They finally split once and for all, until Cheng gets a marriage proposal from a wealthy son of another jewel thief, and the thought of possessing their family heirlooms proves too tempting to resist. However, hubby double crosses her as she is about to snatch a nearly priceless necklace, leaving her with nothing for all her troubles. Now she must deal with hubby again in an effort to find out where the necklace is, but lingering romantic feelings has them both wondering what she is really after.
Johnny To is one of my favorite Hong Kong directors, and while he does a fine job with the look and feel of the film, not much can be done to make a good movie out of this plot and the tendency to go for serious moments in the second half. Without spoiling it, there is a revelation that occurs that causes the divorced couple to choose why they are so fixated with one another after all these years -- love or money. What was once a light dessert film loses most of its appeal as all scenes after the revelation have an uneven quality, trying to play as both a melodrama and a farce at the same time. It just doesn't work.
With a nice jazzy score, crisp cinematography, luxurious clothes and cars, and two likeable stars, Yesterday Once More may be decent escapism for those who are looking for a pleasant time and nothing more. To has done better, but he directed two other films in 2004, and perhaps more time to iron out the substantive wrinkles in the script may have been required. As a genre flick, its unoriginality was already a given, but even genre fans won't have much to keep their interest outside of the chemistry between the two stars.
©2005 Vince Leo