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Now showing in Hong Kong

Film review: PG Love – casual sex and material greed cloud Patrick Kong’s ode to promotion girls

Film paints unflattering portrait of promotion girls as characters fulfil every condescending stereotype and prejudice held about them

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 February, 2016, 5:31pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 February, 2016, 5:31pm

As if the world needed more Patrick Kong Pak-leung movies, the director-scriptwriter of ugly – and often critically maligned – relationship dramas has found an efficient production model to fill our cinemas every other month. By letting new filmmakers direct projects he both writes and produces, Kong is feeding our unrecognised desire for the offensively banal with a series of “Patrick Kong films”, including last year’s Love Detective and Are You Here .

His latest, PG Love, is helmed by new female director Charlie Choi Kit-ling and headlined by several emerging model-actresses. Supporters of Kong can rest assured, however, that he’s not about to let the material’s women-empowering potential to overshadow his exploitative mood: here’s that rare movie which gives the spotlight to this unenviable line of work – and then propagates every condescending prejudice that narrow-minded people could hold against these young women.

By intercutting among three stories about promotion girls – the “PG” in the title – obliged to work in skimpy outfits, the film paints an unflattering portrait of these attractive ladies as victims of their own insensitive, immoral, and borderline idiotic nature. Kong’s emblematic world view is perhaps best exemplified by his tale of two nightclub-traversing gold-diggers, Sugar (Jumbo Tsang Suk-nga) and Candy (Anita Chui Bik-ka), who steal and back-stab but still end up completely broke.

The best story of the bunch sees Jacqueline Chong Si-man as past-her-prime beer girl Phoenix. Now an ex-con still smarting over a misguided affair in her past, the firecracker Phoenix is accompanied by masochistic admirer Happy (Bob Lam Shing-bun), an amicable bar owner who does everything he can to help her get back on her feet. Awkwardly droll and unapologetically sweet, this would-be romance – its curious reliance on verbal profanity aside – deserves a full movie on its own.

Less impressive is the pop singer Angie Shum Yat-ka, who is first-billed in her feature debut but shuffled aside by the blandest story of all. A university student who craves quick cash for a trip to Greece with her working-class boyfriend, Ching (Shum) ends up in the bed of a wealthy playboy (King Chiu King-ho) with possibly ulterior motives. It’s a cautionary tale told flatly, even allowing for a superfluous twist ending that characterises nearly all of Kong’s own directorial efforts.

PG Love opens on February 25