Wednesday, April 6, 2016

"Fashion War" Review

TVB finally offers up something different from their usual family and romance-heavy dramas, and this time it paid off. Although "Fashion War" may have initially looked unappealing to me due to the cast, it has surprisingly become the first series I breezed through this year and could say I thoroughly enjoyed. The writers waste no time diving right into the world of office politics in the intriguing but cutthroat fashion magazine industry. 

Not only is office politics the theme of the series, but it takes front and center, with next to zero romance, which was surprising in a cast full of attractive females. This allowed "Fashion War" to be very plot-driven and character dynamic-driven. While it could become a little overwhelming (seriously, between all this plotting against each other and trying to protect themselves, when do these people have time to actually do their jobs?), the office politics theme was entertaining and kept me on the edge of my seat. 

Although I'm glad it was not dragged out, it is another series that would have benefitted from a couple more episodes because with all the characters the series possessed, further development of them individually wouldn't have hurt. Instead, we focus more on how these characters interact with and work (or rather, compete) amongst each other.

My main concern going into this series was the cast. In particular, I haven't enjoyed Moses Chan in a series since probably 2002's "Family Man" and wasn't thrilled to see Sisley Choi leading. 

For Moses, as annoyed as I could get by the pretentious aura he gave off, especially in the early episodes, I have to admit he brings out the cool and aloof image of "Yip Long" well. However, it is in the later parts of the series where he shows some emotion, such as when he expresses proudness of Ah Yan, that I really started to warm up to him. After 20 episodes though, I still just barely tolerate that skunk hairstyle.

Sisley is adequate as "Cheung Yat Ling" (or more commonly referred to as "Ah Yan"). It's obvious she tried very hard to control her voice so that it would not get too high-pitched and grating for
viewers. The result is that she's likable enough, especially with her character's genuine passion for MODES in comparison to the ulterior motives everyone else has for doing what they do. Ultimately my biggest complaint is about the character Yan herself. Time and time again Yip Long and the writers remind us that Ah Yan is incredibly gifted and poised to become the next editor-in-chief and trendsetter of the fashion world. Yet, we are never shown that, other than for her messing around with the magazine spread on the wall before her first interview. We just keep getting told it. By the end, I still did not think that Ah Yan had the capability to take over for Yip Long. 

Ali Lee gives the strongest performance of all the females as "Kei Wan Wan" or "Vincy," though that is also in part because of her more fleshed out character. She is convincing as the smart and manipulative advertising manager without going too overboard. At the same time, she also brings out the vulnerabilities in her character. She gives off a very similar aura to Kate in regards to her more mean but strong girl look, but her acting is already much more natural than Kate's was at this point in her career. I have a lot of confidence in Ali and am looking forward to seeing her in her next leading roles. 

Him Law rounds out the cast by providing some comic relief in the beginning. As lazy as he was in the beginning, I found it hilarious whenever he was supposedly sleeping, but still heard everything else the others would say and would chime in with a blunt but true remark then promptly go back to sleep. I enjoyed his friendship with Ah Yan, and loved how she positively influenced him to work hard and tap into his potential. "Ah Fan" states that without modeling he is nothing, but I would've liked for him to realize he truly did like working at the fashion magazine and acknowledge he had talent. However, the writing for the character got sloppy towards the end when
he suddenly started showing so much concern for Vincy. 

The rest of the cast is unsurprisingly mediocre, although not too cringeworthy. The series is plot-driven enough that, coupled with its large cast, made it easy to overlook the acting. For example, Jacqueline Chong says almost all her lines in the same way with the same facial expression, even though she is sometimes content and other times angry. Yet, it can be overlooked since "Danielle" is probably the most indifferent of the supporting characters. Vivien Yeo is probably the most confusing supporting character because she perpetually looks pretty mad or annoyed, yet we never find out "Ada"'s true motive for staying with MODES. It's definitely not because she genuinely loves MODES, and I don't buy that she has feelings for Yip Long. If there was one person who made me want to rip my hair out though, it wasn't one of the girls, but Hanjin Tam for his obnoxious and almost cartoon-ish character. 

Mediocre acting from the supporting cast aside, "Fashion War" is worth checking out because it's very different from anything TVB has been doing lately, making it a breath of fresh air. It is a treat that for once, a series isn't being bogged down by draggy romantic storylines and instead focusing on the central plot and interpersonal working relationships. The pacing is fast and the plot is juicy. Overall, it's the most entertaining thing TVB has put out all year. 

Rating: 4 stars

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