They say happiness is a crystal ball. Once upon a time it fell to the ground and shattered into a million pieces. Now each of us can get a part of it. Some get a few pieces, others get more, but no-one can get it all.
That's what the opening monologue of "Look for a Star" would have us believe anyway. However, in this day and age, where status and other peoples perception of your status is the end all and be all for some folks, happiness is not enough. You also have to be happy about the reason you're happy.
The single biggest problem with "Look for a Star" could so very easily have been solved: It's simply too long and slow. A running time of 117 minutes is just not okay for a simple love story like this. As a result many scenes have an unedited quality about them, almost as if we are watching the first rough assembly of the film, unpolished by a skillful editor. Cut out at least 20 minutes and the experience would have been greatly improved.
It's too bad really, because the whimsical (if somewhat uninspired) setup actually works pretty well, once you get past the aforementioned problem. Perhaps this could have been fixed by cutting out the chauffeur story, which is actually a bit boring. The other two love stories suit each other much better, since they sort of run the same course.
Visually the film is never anything less than appealing. It's beautifully shot, full of colors and life, and those lavish hotels look absolutely fantastic. The soundtrack is garnished with romantic English-language pop songs (like Ronan Keating's "When You Say Nothing At All"), so the packaging is definitely solid. We even get a "we're-in-love"-montage, which every good love story needs, and we get some kissing too, which a lot of Asian movies shy away from.
There's also some very touching scenes along the way. One that worked particularly well involves one of the couples, suddenly estranged from each other, lying back to back in the same bed, while sending each other apologetic SMSes.
"Look for a Star" has a simple, beautiful, breezy rhythm once the story gets going. Unfortunately, later in the film, the story goes a bit off track. There's an odd we're-dating-no-we're-not switching back and fourth between Sam and Milan, and suddenly the film turns into "Pretty Woman" - complete with awkward socials situations and a shopping spree - only to abandon this idea and instead seek out its climax on a peculiar game show!
The film is best when it sticks to the core setup, which is basically a story about how opposites attract, in the face of opposition from their surroundings, instead of trying to be oh so clever. Still, as silly as the whole thing got in the final act I found the ending quite touching after all. It kind of got to me, in spite of itself.
Andy Lau is a charming and handsome guy, but he invests very little in this role, which - through no fault of his - is terribly underwritten. His performance is missing a sense of urgency and realism. He always looks like everything is going to be okay in the end. Is it because he could actually buy any woman he wanted (not Shu Qi of course, she's pure and true), or is it because he's read the script, and knows how the story ends?
As for Shu Qi, well, this kind of film will probably do little to forward her career, but it won't hurt it either, and after a string of disappointing films I must admit I found it pleasant to see her back in familiar territory. "Look for a Star" presents Shu Qi at her cute and bubbly best. I saw this film in high-def and oh my god! Her face is just flawless, down to the last detail. She looks absolutely stunning.
Luckily her character here is not merely a one-dimensional looker. In fact her infatuation with Sam and the dilemma that follows turn out to be the backbone of the film. I don't care that much about Sam, he'll be alright no matter what happens, but Milan is the one who truly has something on the line, she's the one who stands to get hurt. Shu Qi plays her delicately with plenty of nuances.
Admittedly I was bored during large portions of this film. It's a little hard to believe this film has anything in common with "Infernal Affairs", let alone that it shares both star and director with that modern classic. Towards the middle, though, the love stories began to work and I did end up getting swept away. The plot is still imperfect and the film is too long, but I'm a sucker for love stories, so I was willing to wait for the good parts.
At the end of the day, if you're in the mood for a story about impossible love, you'll probably be better off with "Romeo + Juliet". Though "Look for a Star" does has one clear advantage over any incarnation of that classic play... It stars Shu Qi.