Monday, March 5, 2012
As the series that managed to both bore and aggravate me, I'm not sure how I managed to finish "L'Escargot". Either way, I'm thrilled that I finally got it done with and due to being busy with school, extracurriculars, and AE Experience, I almost passed up writing a review for it. Then again, I needed some way to vent my feelings for all the irritation this mediocrity caused me. As a result, I will take a more informal and sarcastic take for this specific review.
This series was supposed to show the hardships of the working class and buying a house right? And yet, I felt more hardship trying to sit through all the aggravating relationships and love lines.
Before I start getting too cynical (I'm the one who made myself finish it), I will add that "L'Escargot" had a lot of potential. It could've been easy to relate with due to the premise of hardships the working class go through in society. Due to a poorly written script and set of characters though, it becomes near impossible to connect with any of them. A majority of the characters were unlikable and wishy-washy. How can I relate to a person's hardship if I feel like they brought it upon themselves, or even worse, don't even understand their thinking or actions?
Character Analyzations and Performances
Let's start with the main couple, Kwan Ka On (Michael Miu) and Long Kiu (Sonija Kwok). Ah On bothered me to no end with how selfless he was towards his family, to the point he always sacrificed his wife's happiness. It's one thing that he puts his family in front of himself, it's another thing that he doesn't even seem to care about his wife's feelings. It wasn't until Long Kiu started spending an increased amount of time with Paul that he even seem to use any brain power thinking about her.
Long Kiu is one of the characters I'm neutral against. She was a bit naive, but not to the point she was stupid. Unlike everyone else, I felt slight pity for her. She chose Ah On over the much more thoughtful and financially stable Paul because she loved him. Despite not being the practical decision, she followed her heart. Unfortunately, that did not result in happiness at all, but rather, more hardship.
As a veteran actor and good friend of Michael Miu, Felix Wong critiqued Michael's performance as his breakthrough upon returning to TVB. Like Felix said, Michael did something he has not done in past performances. He shed his usual onscreen charisma and took on the role of a lower middle class and rugged man with ease. At the same time, I was not able to enjoy Michael's performance or his character. I hope to see him play better characters, ones that both show his acting skills and are likable.
Sonija Kwok has little problem speaking her lines with the right amount of emotion, but her motions and physical presence continue to feel awkward and unnatural to me. She doesn't seem to know what to do with the rest of her body, yet she delivers her dialogue adequately. Despite being quite likable, Sonija has been getting uninteresting characters.
And then we have Kwan Ka Lok (Linda Chung) and Jim (Michael Tse). Oh dear. I have never been fond of the two in the first place, so seeing them portraying terrible characters AND act as a couple was too much. Once again, this plot line could have been done more gracefully, or at least decently. There was a huge lack of logic in the character's thinking and actions.
Jim has a beautiful, smart, and capable wife, Man Wah (Joyce Tang), and yet he went running to a little girl like Ka Lok. He basically found himself a perfect wife that he was unworthy of, and he cheats on her. Not only that, his love for Ka Lok bordered on insane as opposed to genuine love. I was literally waiting for some announcement that he was mentally unstable.
Society suffers from having double standards on cheating. They think it's more despicable for a woman to cheat, yet find it typical for a man to do so. For Ka Lok, I didn't hate her just because she cheated. I hated why she cheated. There was no reason why. Like Man Wah said in her confrontation with Ka Lok, it wouldn't have been so bad if she was a gold digger or wanted to climb higher on the corporate ladder. It wouldn't have been as bad if she really was in love with Jim. While cheating is despicable, at least then Ka Lok would've had justification as to why she cheated. It wasn't for love, it wasn't for money, it wasn't for a promotion. She was youthful, bright, and had a great boyfriend. And she cheated on him with another man. But for what? Ka Lok was weak, naive, and had no idea why she was doing what she was doing, even at the end. Words can not even begin to explain how endlessly annoyed, irritated, and aggravated I was with her. Linda isn't a bad actress, but she has been cast in so many low profile series in such unlikable characters. I feel sorry for her, as it feels like she has to cry every day she goes to work.
The love story between Ka Lok and Jim was not between two people who genuinely loved each other despite already having wonderful partners. It was the sloppy and messed up story of two very, very foolish people.
Dai Ding (Ron Ng) started off as the ideal boyfriend. He was sweet, romantic, capable, handsome, and had a good job. It made me want to slap Ka Lok for not appreciating all that she had, a family and a boyfriend who couldn't love her more. I pitied him, and was cheering for him to get together with Joyce (JJ Jia) instead. Unfortunately, by the last few episodes, even his behavior became questionable and he slowly fell into the inevitable fate of most TVB characters these days: he became stupid and irritating. Performance wise, Ron did a decent job and improved in his emotional scenes. However, I have no idea why Ron loved this role and series so much. Except for his one crying scene, this character was only yet another character that failed to show his improvements as an actor. As a result, I'm still waiting for a true follow up performance to his portrayal of "Chung Lap Man" in "E.U.".
JJ Jia was quite likable and sweet as the incredibly shy and somewhat slow Joyce. Her acting needs a lot of work, but next to Ka Lok, I didn't care and was just happy to see a more likable and cute character.
Mandy Wong is the year's first breakthrough as her portrayal of "Kwan Yee So" generated buzz and headlines through out "L'Escargot"'s whole airing. This praise is nothing short of deserving. Despite her young age, she completely morphed into the role of a loud mouthed, obnoxious, and greedy housewife, right down to the small motions like pointing with her chopsticks. I found myself amazed at how convincing she was. Also, Mandy's performance reminds me so much of Iris Wong in "The Threshold of a Persona". The way they spoke and acted as housewives is very similar. At certain angles, they even resemble each other a bit!
Oscar Leung finally gets the delayed recognition he deserves as one of the best young supporting actors in TVB. Usually known and loved for his cute and comedic roles, Oscar also completely morphed into the useless and depressed Kwan Ka Hong.
Kwan Ka Wing (Him Law) and Booking (Yoyo Chen) ended up being my favorite couple to watch as well as my favorite characters. Sadly, their storyline was extremely rushed and didn't have much screen time. They brought badly needed comic relief and were very cute together. Known for portraying bitchy roles, Yoyo Chen was surprisingly endearing and adorable as Booking. I hope to see her in more of these likable roles! Although my like for Him continues to dwindle, he is rather natural in his acting and very cute in these little brother roles. The two were very fun to watch, and it was so sweet when they finally reconciled and realized they genuinely love and care about each other.
The Four P's - Premise, Potential, Plot, and Pacing
The premise was decent and had potential. The plot itself was beyond poorly written. The aggravating relationships overshadowed what I assumed what the point of the series was, to show the hardships of the working class. The pacing was ridiculous. After watching half the series, I felt like nothing had happened yet. The title "L'Escargot" is supposed to compare the hardship a snail and a human goes through. Yet, it was more reflective of the series' slow and snail like pace.
A very unexpected and atypical ending for TVB, but once again not realistic or too reasonable. I was surprised to see that instead of Ka Lok, Dai Ding, and Joyce being alone or Ka Lok and Dai Ding reuniting, Dai Ding and Joyce ended up together. While I initially cheered for the two of them get together, Dai Ding was obviously still in love with Ka Lok and would never genuinely love Joyce. The biggest shocker though, was probably Jim turning himself in and going to jail.
I hope that the high ratings the series received during the finale will not inspire TVB to do more series like this. Due to its length, pace, and poor script, it was extremely hard for me to sit through. It conquered what is usually a hard feat to do: be boring and aggravating to watch. "L'Escargot" was a waste of a great cast. At the least, it finally got Mandy and Oscar the recognition they deserve. Other than that, I'm glad to have written this review for it and finally put it behind me.
Rating: 2 1/2 stars