Ups and Downs in the Sea of Love

Reviewed by: simayee

May 05, 2004

Rating: four

This is a refreshing series from TVB that has finally screwed its nail in the correct place with its script-writing and casting choices. The cast was delightfully likeable and generally delivered wonderful performances. Much of the setting is on a love cruise boat which provides many of the metaphors during the story, e.g. the "stormy seas of love." The only drawback that prevents this series from receiving five stars is that the plot loses itself, becomes nonsensical, and terminates carelessly with Yama and Jason tying the knot and without giving other characters a more suitable resolution.

Joyce Tang is one fine actress. She has proven capable of morphing herself into various characters in many different costume and modern TVB series. Her character "Ah Din" in this series is rather complex with hidden feelings and thoughts. She is as rebellious and brash as she is lovable and soft-hearted. As she develops, she is actually the true heroine of this whole operation. I think she upstages Nick Cheung and Maggie Cheung. She truly deserves true love towards the end, but I suppose TVB thought it was fine to throw Joyce, "just another supporting actress," into the Spinster's Bin. I guess TVB assumed that viewers want to see Yama and Jason together no matter how costly it is. When "Ah Din" was walking down the aisle to marry Jason and he suddenly turned to Yama to profess his love for her, my mother, a disgruntled viewer, said, "What, are they treating Joyce like an animal?" Since TVB enjoys the concept of "you reap what you sow", why did they just let "Ah Din" sacrifice needlessly and find no happiness? In any case this is one of the "nonsensical" endings.

One aspect of this series I really enjoyed was the language and the clever wordplay. The language is filled with contemporary Hong Kong colloquialisms as well as speech that suits the respective characters' level of education. For example, NG is partially a scholar, a bartender, an erotica novelist, a slacker, and generally an educated man. His language is often hilarious, lying somewhere between the crass and refined.

Nick Cheung, though I never liked him, definitely found my appreciation this time around. His facial expressions and the insinuating tone in his voice made his presence very smug and commanding of attention. His performance kept the series together. At times the direction of the script was pathetic, but Nick's "Jason" remained convincing - he was funny, melodramatic, light-hearted, and angry when the script demanded it.

Maggie Cheung's role "Yama" was nicely performed. Yama was also appropriately evil and cunning when she needed to be, yet she was still funny and likeable. As she was the nice, attractive girl-next-door, it was refreshing to see her character become wicked. Then she became caring and nice once again, and needless to say, the show's over when people become nice.

The divorce, the fight for alimony, and the plot to get Yama a husband were the funniest parts of the series.

It was fun to see a series that begins a love story by introducting the misunderstandings, the traumas and the petty vendettas of two former lovers in such a light-hearted and funny manner. Precisely because these are not funny issues, the story was able to distance itself from the melodrama and focus on the idiosyncrasies of lovers which are otherwise comical. After all the series that portray love as a development into happily ever-after, at least this series tries not to be too mainstream with its storyline.

As foils for the plot, the Tarot and Love Boat themes were too much. We get the point. We do not need metaphors slammed unto our heads like bricks. I hope that TVB will learn how to be more subtle and let the viewers figure out some of the plot and make their own connections.

The first half of the series is rather predictable as many TVB series are. But when Lau Wah appears with his own dark agenda, the entire story twists and becomes a bit more engaging. The acting of Lau Wah was passable but in synch with the comedic purpose of the series. Towards the end Lau Wah's mere appearance frustrated me so much that I wanted him caught red-handed. Of course, in TVB series the wrong-doers are always caught red-handed and appropriate punishment ensues, but Lau Wah's retribution does not happen with the climax one might like to see. Lau Wah's end is not presented satisfactorily at all, so this is one of the negative aspects of the series' hasty ending.

If you want to forget yourself and actually laugh out loud, this is it.

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