L'Escargot


Reviewed by: Bridget

August 30, 2012

Rating: three-point-five

Chinese Title: “Kuet Jak Lam Lui”
No. of episodes: 30

Foreword

If there’s one lesson that L’escargot teaches, it’s
that life sucks. I think I need to watch some fluffy
Taiwanese / Korean romcoms after this, because even though
this series was an insightful, realistic portrayal of
everyday life and relationships, it was also downright
depressing.

Review

I wanted to like this series, and I did… until the ending
happened. For once I wanted the predictable, happy ending
or the poetic justice ending, but instead the ending here
was the worst case scenario for me.

It is easy to get emotionally involved in this series
because it had a solid, promising premise with dramatic
potential. Thematically, the family struggles over their
home and their complex relationships really hit home for me,
and I suspect, for a lot of the audience as well.
Definitely one of TVB’s better series recently.

On Characters

Lok is probably one of TVB’s most baffling characters. A
lot of it is the writing’s fault, as the scriptwriter seemed
reluctant to make Lok into a full-on villain / mistress
hell-bent on revenge against Dai Ding. My take on Lok is
that she had a crush on Jim, didn’t really know and wasn’t
strong enough to act against it, which resulted in the
cheating. After she cheated, she realized that Dai Ding was
the one she truly loved, which explained the immense guilt
and the bathtub scene, which was a strong reflection of the
guilt. A big part of the guilt too was that she felt she
disappointed her family, especially her older brother given
the values she was raised with, which explains the heart-
wrenching scene of him finding out and slapping her.

What is confusing is everything that happens with her
character afterwards. It was hard to tell whether Lok ever
really fell in love with Jim. If she wasn’t, why did she
accept the necklace from him? If she was, how come Lok
didn’t once question Jim’s love for her given that he was
married until the third-last episode? Unlike Dai Ding who
wooed Joyce for revenge, it didn’t look like Lok wanted to
take revenge at all. Sure, she wore the necklace once to
make Dai Ding mad, but she admitted that to Jim and that act
could hardly have been for revenge because it was done in a
moment of anger and was also provoked. The nail in the
inconsistency coffin was the confrontation scene between her
and Jim’s wife. Lok’s response to the accusation was “I’m
not the one who isn’t leaving him alone, he is the one who
won’t leave me alone… I’ve told him to leave me alone”. Um,
she never actually really rejected Jim, unless you count
smashing the dollhouse that he gave her – and even then, she
went back and apologized. She lets him whisk her away to a
private island, she dines with him, she even invited him to
her house for coffee, fully knowing his feelings for her.
She never told Jim “you are married, I don’t love you, stop
bothering me” until the series was almost over and she
realized it was DD that she loves. Yet, two episodes before
that, she declared that she loved Jim? A few episodes
later, she decides it’s Dai Ding that she really loves. I
don’t know about you, but I was like “what da eff?!” One
can argue that she was so heartbroken over her breakup with
Dai Ding that her feelings were all over the place, but the
pacing was so off in this series that even that argument is
hard to defend.

It’s also hard to believe that Lok, who is supposedly
someone who was raised with integrity (albeit committed a
dire mistake in cheating against her fiancé, but at least
she owned up to it in one of the most honest scenes with her
older brother) would have willingly become a participant –
even a passive one – in an affair. Even if she was confused
or heartbroken, even if she really loved Jim. It would have
been more logical and interesting to watch Lok had become
more of a self-loathing character, launching herself into an
affair with Jim, not for revenge against Dai Ding but
because the guilt ate away at her. But instead, the writer
didn’t decide what to do with the character until the last
episode, so none of the dots connect properly. That is one
of the biggest problems of this drama.

Dai Ding started off as one of my favourite characters but
quickly evolved into a jerk. I did not like the way he
basically toyed with Joyce’s heart, even though she knew
what he was doing and was willing to go along with it. I
know a few fellow reviewers who disagree with me, but my
interpretation of him was that it was Lok, it had been Lok,
and it will always be Lok that he loves. Maybe eventually
he would grow feelings or even fall in love with Joyce, but
even in the last episode I feel he still loved Lok. To me,
Joyce would always be second choice. Yeah, I know that
rhymes. I’m a poet and I didn’t even know it. That rhymes
too.

Anyway, to me Dai Ding and Lok spent a lot of the time
confusing love with gratitude, and even in the end when they
realized their true love, they were both too weak to try and
make it work. Neither of them were persistent enough to try
and salvage their relationship, and too much hurt had
happened between them, which I guess is the only part that
makes sense with their love story. But if that was the
case, then why did Dai Ding end up with Joyce? Both DD and
Lok should have ended up alone.

And that’s why the ending was depressing to me. Lok ends up
alone, even though from beginning to end DD and she were
truly in love and all was revealed and forgiven at the end.
Dai Ding ends up with Joyce, which was definitely the head-
scratcher. Even when they started dating, DD had told Joyce
“I’m not over Lok, but let’s try this and maybe I’ll forget
about her”. And they end up together!? What the f-ck?!
Jim ends up back with the wife, but I saw it more as
gratitude for saving his life, not out of love. If Lok
hadn’t completely rejected him near the end of the series
(and maybe if he wasn’t in jail), I don’t believe for a
second that Jim would have given up on her. In the last
episode, Jim never told his wife he loved her. He only
thanked her for being by his side the whole time and that
she was the one who treated the best. That’s not love,
that’s gratitude.

Both Joyce and Jim’s wife were second choices to Lok. In a
depressing way, that’s a pretty accurate portrayal of
reality – so many times people settle or go with second
choice because they can’t be with their first choice, or
they desire companionship and stability so they end up with
someone they may not passionately love, but still care
about. I’m a very all or nothing type of girl. It’s first
choice for me, or I would rather be alone. Is that an
idealistic view on love? Maybe. But that is my view and
that’s why this series – especially the ending – bothers me.

For awhile, Jim was another character who I couldn’t figure
out. It’s not like his wife is some socialite daughter, she
was just some former actress and the series suggests that
they initially married for love because at the time Jim
wasn’t wealthy yet. So if Jim was that much in love with
Lok, then why not just divorce the wife and marry Lok? To
put it bluntly, it’s not like he needed the marriage and he
didn’t seem in love with the wife anymore at all (despite
what he says about being able to love two women at one time;
I didn’t believe his statement – Jim just stayed in the
marriage because Lok never accepted him).

Besides, if the argument was that too much hurt happened
between Lok and DD for them to reconcile, why doesn’t this
logic apply to Jim and Man Wah? Jim cheated as well; he is
just as guilty as Lok for breaking a long-time commitment,
and arguably worse because he didn’t just break an
engagement, he broke a marriage. Every single one of them
should have ended up alone. Yes, I know I’m a drama queen.
Like I said, it’s all or nothing for me.

Wing and King (whose name is hilarious – one of the funniest
scenes in the series was her introducing herself “Hello, I’m
Book King” and Wing replies “What? I don’t have a booking”)
were almost cartoonish in a sea of serious characters.
Their story was also much too rushed and pretty much acted
as filler to the main plot.

On was a very realistic portrayal of the big brother in
Asian culture and reminds me a lot of one of my friends who
is also the oldest in a family with four children. In fact
it was kind of disturbing how realistic the Kwan family is.

On Acting

Did Ron Ng go on some acting course recently or something?
Because that 10-minute scene post-breakup was probably the
finest acting moment of his entire career. Unfortunately,
the rest of his performance leaves much to be desired. He’s
his usual wooden self – not angry or vengeful enough in his
scenes opposite Michael Tse, not mean enough in his insults
toward Linda. Maybe he was just possessed during the post-
breakup scene. However, he does make a pretty young couple
with Linda. I won’t lie. I could hardly bear to watch the
couple get broken up the way they did (even though I knew
that was going to happen) because something about their
relationship hits me personally. Their relationship was
sincere, lovely, and real in the sense that the two were the
only ones each other had ever known and loved since youth,
so the fact that they were torn apart was a tragedy of Greek
proportions for me (the ending, the ending… BAAHHHH). You
know, the last episode where DD finds out Lok is leaving
overseas? For once, I was waiting for the classic airport-
chase-reunion-hug scene. And you know what? TVB didn’t
give it to me. What did I ever do you to you, TVB?! I’ve
stuck with you through thick and thin, and the one time I
want the airport scene, you don’t give it to me?! I barely
stopped from crying myself silly.

Where was I? Oh yeah, Ron. So he’s the usual Ron in this
series, except for the post-breakup scene. I would consider
his performance ‘mediocre plus’.

Linda Chung is my favourite young TVB actress, bar none.
I’ve seen every single one of her performances but it was
A Journey Called Life that made me a true fan. That
performance not only trumped everything she ever did, but
also demonstrated that she has the most raw acting talent
out of most, if not all, of the fadans acting today.
Granted, she got a very well-written character in
Journey, but it was Linda who really breathed life
into the character. She gets an imperfect character in
L’escargot, but manages to do the most with her character in
the first half of the series. The terror when she realizes
her older brother found out about her cheating, the way she
looked at the dollhouse when Jim first gave it to her, her
dejection when she sees DD with Joyce – all great acting
moments. Her scenes with Michael Miu were also enjoyable to
watch. Linda tends to have chemistry with most of her male
co-stars, and she is believable in Lok’s respect and love
for her older brother and sister-in-law.

Unfortunately, after Lok’s cheating, Linda’s performance
becomes as inconsistent as her character. For example, why
was she smiling so happily in the star-watching segment?
This isn’t Meteor Garden where Dao Ming Si is giving
you a shooting star necklace and professing his undying
love. Lok was supposedly at the lowest of the low at this
point of the drama. Even if she were to smile, it should
have been a reluctant smile. Same with the sunset-watching
on the island. Overall, not her best performance, but not
her worst either.

Sonija Kwok is robotic here. She has two problems in this
series. Her face doesn’t register emotion and her voice is
also automaton. Make sure your fast-forward button works,
especially for her scenes with the other robot actor (the
guy who plays her boss).

Michael Tse seems to be stuck in chok mode ever since
Laughing Gor, and this series is no exception. He choks his
way through much of the first half of the series, and it
isn’t until the last 10 episodes or so where he offers
something different, such as his loving glances toward Linda
and the subtle, demure guilt towards Joyce Tang.

Oscar Leung, Mandy Wong and Him Law lend ample support to
the drama. Their best moment was definitely the explosive
scene when they were arguing about the title of their family
home. Again, this situation hit very close to home and I
suspect for many others, so this scene was one of the most
memorable scenes in the entire drama. Generally competent
performance by these three.

Considering JJ Jia comes from a variety show (she won the
young-girl version of Beautiful Cooking so you know,
if acting doesn’t work out for her she can always open a
restaurant), she’s fine as the sweet-tempered, innocent
Joyce. Her Mainland accent makes it hard to believe that
she’s Michael Tse’s sister, though.

Michael Miu gets a relatively straightforward character to
portray, and overall I think he does well except I don’t
think he looked burdened enough. On reminds me a lot of
Gallen Lo’s Ivan from Golden Faith, and Gallen was
able to give Ivan this burdened / weary vibe that flowed
through much of the series. Here, Michael is believable as
the big brother role,

Joyce Tang was a shocker, a complete 180 from the cute,
earnest Mrs. Lam from Ghetto Justice. In fact, she
was almost scary in here, with the half-open eyes and
daggers-in-smile expressions, and the quiet, soft voice.
She gave Man Wah a sinister edge, so sinister that I thought
she was going to go psycho in the end. And she has some
daring, suggestive bed scenes with Michael Tse. An
excellent performance, in fact the best of the series.

Who is the little girl who plays On’s daughter? She was
adorable and acted the pants off Sonija – fantastic
performance.

To Watch or Not To Watch, That is the Question
No one is going to get the warm and fuzzies after watching
this, and also not recommended for those who want a
diversion from real-life problems. Recommended if you want
something to think about.


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