Lives in Flames
Starring: Alan Po Chi-lun, Mag Lam Yan-tung, Desmond Tam Kin-man, Michelle Wei
Director: Jacky Lee Chi-lun
Category: IIB (Cantonese)
The young rockers in Lives in Flames look a pretty decent bunch and, aside from the odd kerfuffle, rarely get into trouble. While it's ludicrous to equate rock musicians with agitators, the all-round propriety shown by Jacky Lee Chi-lun's protagonists is emblematic of how Lives in Flames is too conventional for a film with such a title.
The problem probably stems from the fact that Lives is as much a fictional feature as it is a showcase for Mr., the local pop-rock group who play a watered-down version of themselves in the film. Still, as an exercise seemingly intent in celebrating a subculture, Lives in Flames is strangely drenched in melodramatic devices and cliched relationships.
The two lead characters here are the singer Alan (Alan Po Chi-lun), a drifter who has long deserted hopes of making music under the pressure of his herbalist father (Chan Wai-man, above left with Eva Lai Yin-shan and Po), and the guitarist Dash (Desmond Tam Kin-man), who is trapped in a relationship with his shallow property agent girlfriend Jeana (Jeana Ho Pui-yu), growing increasingly tired of his inability to earn good money and settle down.
After a chance meeting with Dash, Alan joins his high-school classmate's new band, Mr. and Miss - the latter part of the name referring to the group's frontwoman, Mag (Mag Lam Yan-tung), who unsurprisingly gradually falls for Alan.
Music-wise, the band's life takes on alternately comic and dark turns, as Dash recruits a Guitar Hero arcade-gamer (Ronny Lay), who manages to learn real riffs in an instant; meanwhile, the drummer Alex (Alex Lam Tak-shun, not of Mr. but son of Canto-pop singer George) struggles with a pill addiction.
While the characters are all foisted with obstacles in their paths towards rock'n'roll glory, they are hardly the stuff that sets hearts on fire.
What's even more problematic is Mag's fortunes: having no solid back story to speak of, the singer eventually drops out of the picture while her bandmates attain greatness without her.
So does this mean girls don't rock? Of course not. But the film's stance is too conservative for one about young people undergoing baptisms of fire.
Lives in Flames opens on April 19