You Are the Apple of My EyeReviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 09/03/12 16:19:42
(Worth A Look)
SCREENED AT THE 2012 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: After watching "You Are the Apple of My Eye", I learned that it was even more autobiographical than most coming-of-age movies; read a rumor that it was among the most elaborate attempts gestures ever made to declare one's love for a former girlfriend in order to lure her back; and saw another, more serious, Taiwanese movie about high school friends and lovers whose story carried on into adulthood ("Girlfriend Boyfriend"). How does that affect my opinion of the movie? Not a whit; it's still a very funny, very charming coming of age film.Our narrator for this process is Ko Ching-teng (Ke Zhendong), whose parents are paying for him to attend a private academy in 1994 Taipei, though he doesn't do much but screw around with his friends: Hsu Bo-chung (Yen Sheng-yu), who is aptly nicknamed "Boner"; "Cock" Tsao Kuo-sheng (Owodog), basketball fiend; Liao Ying-hung (Tsai Chang-hsien), aka "Scratch"; and A-he (Hao Shao-wen), because every story like this has a fat kid. All but Ko are harboring crushes on pretty honor student Shen Chia-yi (Michelle Chen), so of course Ko is the one that the teacher sits next to Shen in order to keep him out of trouble - and, of course, they soon find that they like each other quite a bit.
Ko and Chen are the enjoyable sort of romance that sneaks up on the characters and even the audience; they clash, gain respect for the other, try to prove each other wrong, and wind up walking down dark streets together because it might not be safe for a girl to be out and about by herself without the climactic kiss. Heck, at first the main thing that seems to be happening is that Chen and her comics-loving friend Hu Chia-wei (Wan Wan) find themselves absorbed into Ko's circle of friends, and it's not until Ko and Chen start doing stuff with just them that they start to feel like they are now and have been a couple, although the two seem amusingly unsure about when and whether they've crossed that line.
At that point, you might expect a lot of movies to focus in on the couple more tightly, but writer/director Giddens Ko (credited as "Giddens") does what actually tends to happen and draws in more people, as happens when one graduates high school and heads to college, so just as the audience starts to realize that there's one more guy hanging around than Giddens knows what to do with, Ching-teng suddenly has four new college roommates to bounce off. At times, the film's autobiographical nature seems a bit too much in control of the story, but it's also undeniable that Giddens is able to use real-life incidents (such as a 1999 earthquake) to anchor things.
Those four new characters are, at least, pretty funny; like most of the movie. Giddens fills the movie with broad, bawdy humor - Boner and Scratch have their names for exactly the reasons you think, and Ko is starting to pick up his father's unorthodox dressing habits. It's seldom nasty or unpleasant, though, and includes a climactic kiss that is as unorthodox and funny as is romantic. When Giddens uses narration to bridge gaps or get inside Ko's head, it's easy to see why the real-life Ko is one of Taiwan's most popular writers; he develops a voice that's fun to listen to.
He gets to put words in the mouths of some nice actors, including and especially Ke Zhendong and Michelle Chen. Both are young enough to play high school kids believably, but are able to carry themselves as settled-in adults later on, too. The more important transformation, though, is how both start off playing characters who are rather full of themselves but who gain maturity and confidence in ways that are much more genuine than the way other characters present those traits.And that's what one really wants from both coming of age and romance pictures - stories and relationships that shape their protagonists into better people. So while some of the details may be a bit wobbly, the heart of it is exactly what it should be.
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