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Beautiful Moment, A
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by Jay Seaver

"A beautiful half-hour in the middle of lesser material."
3 stars

The neat idea that sells "A Beautiful Moment" is not close to being a wholly original idea - I feel like I've got the names of two or three other movies that play with the lead actor in romantic comedies often being old enough to have dated their opposite numbers' mothers on the tip of my tongue - but it's a fun one and potentially clever, especially with this cast. That's why it's so bizarre and frustrating that filmmaker Patrick Kong Pak-Leung spends so much time on doing other things.

It introduces Doctor Bo (Carina Lau Ka-Ling) using a mah-jongg game to treat three other women of a certain age, before shifting perspective to Simon Leung (Simon Yam Tat-Wah), a billionaire developer who berates his employees and carries petty grudges against rival Philip Lau Hak-Heung (Philip Keung Hiu-Man) to extremes. Bo has two daughters - Michelle (Michelle Wai Si-Nga), who she is pushing toward the other end of a breakup, and Kiki (Ivana Wong Yuen-Chi), a struggling actress who hasn't spoken to her mother in years. Chance has Simon and Michelle meet on Valentine's Day and they decide to start seeing each other, but little do they know that they've got more reason than usual to be nervous when Michelle brings her boyfriend to meet her mother.

For something like fifteen or twenty minutes in the middle, <I>A Beautiful Moment</I> lives up to its name; Bo and Simon spot each other at lunch and do all they can to verbally spar around Michelle. They eventually meet up and without her and while Kong initially seems to get too cute with how that goes, ham-fistedly having a parallel conversation with a younger couple going on at the next table, watching these characters smile because they know better and only have to sketch out part of their own conversations s terrific even if it is very much not the verbal jousting that one likely expected from the first encounters with the pair. Carina Lau and Simon Yam handle this downshift so well that it's difficult to understand why this isn't the entire movie.

It's not, though, and the process of getting there is kind of maddening. This main triangle is introduced in pretty specific terms: Simon is a bully; Bo is a gifted therapist but that same skill set also allows her to be tremendously manipulative; and Michelle seems to be the person she is trying to control most, the sort of behavior which drove Kiki away. There's something there, potentially, with Michelle being pushed into her mother's unhealthy patterns or Simon seeing a second chance, but Kong and co-writer Ja Poon Hang-Kei never really dig into it; Simon just seems to get nicer without being pushed with Michelle more or less flatly saying that she's decided to date him because he's wealthy and powerful. At the other side of the film, things just get shoved into different directions and arrangements out of the blue, so that even when it reaches the conclusion the audience wants, it's hard to feel anything as a result of something just happening off-screen.

And that doesn't even get to how the movie treats Ivana Wong's Kiki, who is eventually relegated to interrupting the rest of her family's thing with non-sequiturs despite the fact that the front half of the movie leans hard on the "acting" jobs she and her boyfriend take to make ends meet for its better comic pieces. Most of the comic set-ups in the movie are fairly mean-spirited, which is fair enough - it's about initially-selfish people - but some of them go on much too long at high volume, with the bits where Bo is trying to help Philip with his gambling addiction especially obnoxious.

As much as the movie can be frustrating, the cast does their best by it - I'd love to see Simon Yam and Carina Lau in a romantic comedy that delivers on the promise of their scenes together all the way through, Michelle Wai and Ivana Wong are both very funny when given the room, and as director, Kong is able to get everyone in the supporting and cameo-ing cast to squeeze the most out of the clumsy gags he gives them as the writer. It's a mess, but at least it's one with occasional high points.

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=33536&reviewer=371
originally posted: 04/22/20 00:20:25
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Directed by
  Patrick Kong

Written by
  Patrick Kong
  Ja Poon

Cast
  Carina Lau
  Simon Yam
  Michelle Wai
  Ivana Wong



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