Life Art


Reviewed by: AngryBaby

April 17, 2007

Rating: two

Characters

Yum Zi Wah - Gigi Lai
Fong Zi Chung - Kevin Cheng
Goh Dai Wai (Zi Wah's Uncle)-Evergreen Mak
Yum Ching Tuen (Zi Wah's Dad)- Paul Chun
Gong Chung – Astrid Chan
Fong Zi Mun - Natalie Tong
Janice (Zi Chung's ex) - Queenie Chu
And there is a female character meant to be called Cheser (what the ? I heard 'Chester', poor thing, what a name)

As "Life Art" is about pictures, it's appropriate to show what happens in the story graphically below.

The Story
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Introduction

That's right, – not much, nothing, zero, zilch… The following summary is as much as you need to know and I've made it as exciting as possible.


It tells of the stories of Zi Wah (Gigi) and Zi Chung (Kevin), and their journey of self-discovery and reaching inner peace, with a bit of culture, Mandarin and art thrown in along the way. Wah is a simple, genteel girl who was born a gifted artist but unfortunately had her drawing hand crushed in an accident by her father when she was in her teens, which disabled her hand. This caused her budding career to stop and in the series she battles through issues of self-worth. Chung is a like a high-pressure cooker on overdrive, a hyper busy software developer whom I suspect suffers from ADD. He is the backbone for a large company and goes through a series of work politics and a long-distance relationship problem where his girlfriend breaks up with him. Their parents becomes good friends, with Tuen (Wah's Dad) teaching Kevin's mum Chinese calligraphy. Wai (Evergreen) failed to marry Yvonne Lam some years ago but with the appearance of third party they get together. In the end Gigi realises she has a left hand and starts drawing comics, Kevin just keeps working and they get together. Happy ending.

Acting

The Girls

Gigi Lai as Yum Zi Wah
Her Dad kept giving her crap advice so I walked up to the TV and told her to “get over it already”. Seriously, there was one and only one obstacle she was required to overcome in this story – a weak right hand. Yes, that would have slightly halted her progression as a great painter and a little rift between father-daughter relationship but how long has it been? Her disability was the most atheistically pleasing handicap a girl could hope for (clever, TVB) - she was still 'pretty', perfectly normal in every other way, effortlessly talented, had a good left hand, awesome family and an over qualified Dad. She's a 'nice' enough girl because she spends most of the series at home, in the flower shop and avoiding the world – someone needs to take a leaf out of Aya's diary ("1 Litre of Tears" - Japanese). In the end, it's the people around her and a whole bunch of strangers who (for some reason) hoist her, screaming and kicking, onto the high throne of 'children's comic master' and worship her. And her hand proved more of a challenge then losing her mother at a young age – seems like she got over that with no problems.

The character was two-dimensional enough; Gigi's acting makes it a cardboard figure. Most of the time she is overacting her handicap, trying to be cute with unnecessarily big smiles, peppered with annoying and misplaced little girly giggles. She looks 'pretty', dresses in soft white a lot of the time to highlight her innocence but this kind of simplicity places higher demands on an actor's ability and screen charisma, exposing them to more scrutiny. That certainly doesn't help Gigi whose most commendable performance to date was in 'War and Beauty' where she was stunningly bundled up in fur, makeup, jewellery and headdresses. Good news is there are only two moments in the series in which you need to see her 'sort of' cry.

Other Girls

Yvonne Lam was solid, it pains me to see a former Miss Hong Kong (contestant) constantly cast in 'ugly clownish roles'. At least here, her character is a bit more rationale and intelligent. She made an amusing pairing with Evergreen.

To see Astrid Chan's return as Gong Zhung made me excited and hopeful for a moment. Her Mandarin is fluent but a bit flat and wooden, otherwise she didn't disappoint, I would like to see her in future series.

Natalie Tong as Kevin's sister was good at being lively, bubbly, arrogant, demanding and by being mildly entertaining was more than enough to redeem her in this series, despite a tinge of overacting... although I thought Vinci Wong was too old to be paired up with her. Queenie as Janice was pretty and quite cool, but she didn't get much of a role - her crawling back to Kevin in the end was predictably TVB and silly.

The Boys

Kevin Cheng as Fong Zi Chung
Easy job. His ability to flip from his long-term girlfriend to falling madly in love with Gigi in matter of days is not very consistent with his devoted character. I also think he had no right to be angry with Janice at all as he was the one being overly caring, protective and hanging out alone with another girl all the time whilst she was overseas. Kevin is good-looking and acting is at par, nothing spectacular, further confirming my frustration in him receiving the 'best male actor' award from TVB. He carries his trademark fidgety hand movements and stutters in his speeches evident in all his other series. If you mixed his scenes from this and other ones like "Hard Fate" and "Under Canopy of Love", you wouldn't be able to tell which one came from which drama. There is hope still.

Other Boys
Paul Chun, good father as usual. He must be bored with all these repetitive roles. Evergreen is comical and immature, being almost as useless as Gigi if it wasn't for his ending. Vinci Wong was also entertaining but I didn't think he matches Natalie Tong, reminded me more of big brother little sister.

Plot Analysis
Positive things are that the it is consistent (consistently boring), characters clear-cut and established (not much development) and story does flow well - like water down a drain pipe, as there is nowhere else it can go. There are some good bits, like the banter between oddly-perfect-for-each-other couple Evergreen and Yvonne, and Vinci being picked on by the Natalie, but I wouldn't say they were 'funny'. You quickly learn to seize every chance to laugh as hard as you can whenever you suspect the slightest hint at an attempt of humour or wit. It's not that hard, just learn from 'Virtues of Harmony', really, viewers don't ask for that much to be entertained.

This genre IS MEANT to be simple, light-hearted, feel-good, no fuss, no surprises, happy fun for the whole family, so I admit to 'seem' harsh. But though the script and dialogue fit well, there's no excuse for the plot to be as engaging as Ron Ng's acting in 'Men in Pain'. By the end I wasn't not convinced Gigi really overcame her insecurity (she was practically handed her success) and Kevin was 'Mr. Perfect' to start with anyway - so basically there was no character development. Little molehill problems came along and were brushed (haha couldn't resist) aside, like the return of Kevin's Ex, the art store's financial woes, Gig's Dad's health and so forth.

The male lead character is likeable and respected because he is good- looking, capable, genius, accomplished, filial, devoted, considerate, flawless, invincible, superhuman.

The female lead character is likeable and respected because she is good-looking.

Now don't say she is also 'really nice', as that is expected of someone who is lucky to grow up in a nice family, sheltered in a comfortable existence and not needing to deal with the real world. So I don't think she should take credit for that. Every other female character in the series has a bit more opinion/initiative/personality, and is punished by being the butt of body-image jokes (girls at Kevin's work), portrayed like a clown (Yvonne) and ends up by lonely (Janice). If I was Kevin I would have chosen any other girl, including Chester.

Just for the weird-minded viewers like myself...

Was it really necessary in the end for Kevin to drag both girls to his romantic 'rainbow and roses' set up for Gigi? Couldn't he just tell Janice his decision? And I've always wondered what the trio did in the car during the long drive out to the meadow, did they make small talk, like chat about Hong Kong's weather compared to US or did they stay quiet to keep the suspense, must've been long and awkward silence. And didn't Kevin realise that Janice could not have walked back to the city by herself once she found out she was rejected. She would have had to wait to carpool back with the lovebirds … even more awkward

I never made it to the very end of the series. When Gigi's animated comics began to show, my remote control hand was having spasms, like hers, and in the confusion the 'stop' button was hit.

Conclusion
Good one TVB, you got me. I decided to watch it because at the time I thought I couldn't get any more bored – TVB's always full of surprises. The first time I watched the opening themesong sung by Kevin, I thought 'uh-oh'…

To be fair, there is nothing obtrusively wrong with this series, it's watchable and passable as there's no room for anything to go wrong. Watch it if you are a diehard Gigi or/and Kevin fan or if you were madly in love and totally blown away with series like 'A Handful of Love'.


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