War and Beauty

Reviewed by: ngai-mui

December 31, 2004

Rating: five

Gigi Lai Chi - Yuk Ying
Charmaine Sheh See-Man - Yee Sun
Maggie Cheung Ho-Yee - On Seen
Sheren Tang Sui-Man - Yu Fay
Bowie Lam Bo-Yee - Shuen Bak Yeung
Moses Chan Ho - Hung Mo

Hype can easily break a show, especially one that does not have the talent or content to live up to its hype. However, unlike other heavily promoted shows, "War and Beauty" didn't disappoint. In fact, it not only lived up to its hype, it surpassed it.

Creative, cunning, and manipulative are just some of the ways to describe the characters in this series, but they could also be used to describe the writing. In a day and age when mediocre writing is expected to be made better by the people acting it out, WaB's script was a refreshing breath of air in that it was good enough to stand on its own. This show didn't need gimmicks or special effects to support the writing because it was enough to keep the audience enthralled. With every secret that was revealed, another one awaited viewers around the corner. Twists and turns accompanied surprises until the very last minute. The best kind of entertainment keeps its viewers from leaving their seats, and that is exactly what WaB did.

Some of the most evil but entertaining characters were borne out of WaB. There has surely never been a show where not only were the four main ladies smart and conniving, the main men were subjected to being secondary characters. One of the most amazing feats this series accomplished was with its four female characters: Yuk Ying, Yee Sun, On Seen, and of course, Yu Fay. To write a story about four evil women is not hard. To write a story about four evil women who deserve our sympathy is a different issue. Each of the women was equally cunning and some could say, equally cruel, but throughout the show, the audience was privy to their backstories. We were allowed glimpses into their pasts and into their present states of mind. Through this "behind-the-scenes" look, we were able to see why these women were the way they were and why they eventually changed into who they had become. These four characters were written so that even though the audience may not have agreed with their actions, we were still able to sympathize, and even understand their reasons.

The men, on the other hand, were a bit more pitiful. Though both Hung Mo and Shuen Bak Yeung played big roles in the women's lives, they were, after all, secondary characters. This is just one of the reasons that make WaB so special. Unlike many other TV shows now and in the past, the women are the focus here. They are the driving force behind the stories and the men are simply their pawns. Sad, but it was something I, personally, found extremely amusing.

The show's great writing was only accentuated by the equally great acting by the many talents in the cast.

Gigi Lai - I wasn't able to watch this show until after the TVB anniversary show and when I had heard that she had won the Best Actress Award over Sheren Tang, I was, to be honest, a little surprised. Though I wasn't too familiar with Gigi's acting skills, I was sure of Sheren's. However, after watching the show, I can definitely now see why Gigi won. She was great. She did a fabulous job showing the different sides of Yuk Ying (innocent, evil, confused, in love). If played by any other actress, I would think the character would've only been a one-dimensional, spoiled girl. Instead, Gigi made her multi-faceted and for that, I have to give her props.

Charmaine Sheh - I have not always been a fan of hers, but I think she did a good job in WaB. Yee Sun was supposed to be the calm and calculating one and Charmaine did a very convincing job of that. From her emotionless voice (and I do mean that in a good way) and smile-less looks she shot Yuk Ying, I was almost surprised this was the same Charmaine I had hated in just about every show I've seen her in.

Maggie Cheung - Out of the four leading ladies, I think Maggie was given the least material to show her range. However, with that said, I think she did a good job with what she was given. I think she did phenomenally with the scene where she broke down over the death of On Seen's grandmother.

Sheren Tang - What is there to say that others have not already said? I am saddened TVB is not quite as famous as Hollywood because if it were, then the entire world would see what a talent Hong Kong is honoured to have. The dagger-filled looks Yu Fay gave her enemies, offset by the looks of regret and remorse the audience saw in the memory of her lost babies could never have been done quite as well if Sheren wasn't playing the role. She made the audience hate Yu Fay and then she made us love her. There is nothing more an actress could possibly achieve in a single series.

Bowie Lam - I wasn't quite as impressed by him as others seem to have been. That is not to say I didn't think he did a good job because I think he did. However, I think I've seen Bowie perform better in other shows than this one. What may also be an unpopular opinion is that I, in fact, thought he did much better in his scenes with Shuen Bak Yeung's father, rather than with Yuk Ying.

Moses Chan - Again, considering the amount of material he was given, I don't think he could've done any better of a job. When Hung Mo was supposed to be righteous, Moses showed it. When Hung Mo was supposed to be sad, Moses showed it. There wasn't much more he could've done.

Love Stories:
At the heart of this series are several different love stories, ones that made an impact not only on the characters, but on the audience's minds as well.

Yuk Ying/Shuen Bak Yeung - Touching. Due to the fact that I didn't find much chemistry between Gigi and Bowie, I wasn't as into this couple as I should've been. Most of the time, like Yee Sun, I didn't understand why Shuen Bak Yeung wasted his time and life on Yuk Ying, but I guess that's what they call "love".

On Seen/Hung Mo - Having always been a fan of both Maggie and Moses, this couple didn't disappoint. Bias aside, I was a bit saddened they never really had a happy closure. Yes, in the end, they were together, but that didn't last very long. On a happier note, I'm a sucker for sappy, cutesy scenes, so I loved the scene where he held her hand as they walked through the snowy court.

I loved this series and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a change from the usual ho-hum shows we are served on TV these days. "War and Beauty" is more than just an entertaining 30 hours. It also serves as a reminder of the cruelty and evil that human beings are capable of, despite how we may protest.

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