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Written by Funn Lim


"He's (Temur) more like a big little kid who couldn't get his favourite toy and so he wants to make sure no one gets it. Just so happens his favourite toy is Ken the doll and not Barbie the doll if you get my meaning."




SPOILERS! SPOILERS! SPOILERS!







Genre
Costume/period drama about undying love. Some comical moments.

Released In
2002

Episodes
34

Character-Cast
Man Lai Kuan - Michelle Yip Suen
Wong Po Siu Wah - Raymond Lam
Temur/Emperor - Joe Ma
Weng Lan - Rain Lau
Ying Suet/So Wan - Tavia Yeung
Lau Yin Yuk - Myolie Wu
Man Lai Kuan's brother - Mok Kar Kiu
Fatt Gor Chek/9th Duke - Liu Kai Chi
Empress - Natalie Wong

Summary
A girl disguises as a man faces many obstacles and falling in love with 2 men who became her sworn brothers not realising she was actually a girl. Set in early Yuan Dynasty in China.

Plot
There is absolutely nothing worthy to say about the so called plot of this series but describe it I must. And so here goes...

Man Lai Kuan is an exceptionally dim .. sorry... bright girl who is as smart, if not smarter and more capable than any man or scholar. Born into a simple but renowned family of physicians, she is adored by her parents and her big brother. She also has a taste for disguising as a man together with her faithful servant, Yuk as that is the only way she can show off ... sorry again ... participate in what women were not allowed to do; scholarly debates, going to school, amongst others. She is also well versed in Kung Fu.

One fine day she meets two men who would change her life forever, if not her exquisite taste in men's clothing.

One was the heroic and idealistic Wong Po Siu Wah who was actually her intended fiancée since they were little children, much to her chagrin. The other is a mysterious handsome bloke who so happens to be a Mongolian named Temur. Both men take an instant liking to Man Lai Kuan disguised as Lai Ming Tong, a young effeminate but smart scholar who is related to the unseen Man Lai Kuan. They became sworn brothers and when Lai Kuan thought it was Temur who played the song which she so liked, she fell in love with Temur, trying her best to tell him she disguising as a he is actually a she. Temur at the same time has feelings for Lai Kuan, until he has to leave for home due to an emergency situation. Lai Kuan was devastated but when she found out it was Wong Po Siu Wah who was the one who played that song, she realised she loved Wong Po Siu Wah and poor Temur was left in the cold, well not quite.

At the meantime, Lai Kuan's father was forced to marry her off to a useless man who was the son of an acquaintance of the powerful 9th Duke (uncle to the future Yuan emperor who so happens to be Temur). Ying Suet, Lai Kuan's faithful servant volunteered to take her place as no one actually saw Lai Kuan to disastrous results; it ended with Ying Suet jumping into the lake and the bad guy accusing Lai Kuan's father of many things; some which landed poor old man into prison in the greatest injustice one can perpetrate.

Ying Suet at the meantime is saved and became very close to none other than the 9th duke who took her in as his own daughter, and so Ying Suet who became So Wan was pronounced a Yuan princess, an attempt by Temur to please his uncle who is close to revolting against Temur.

Temur on the other hand was forced to marry a very considerate princess and though the marriage was quite ok, the princess couldn't help but feel Temur was a bit cold towards her.

Lai Kuan and friends (brother, servant, acquaintance) found out her father was imprisoned and traveled all the way to the capital city with very low funds to seek the help of a powerful relative who is actually no longer powerful. In a last attempt to save her father, she decided to take the place of the relative's sickly son in the national exams and she emerged as 1st in the exams, and given the rank of a minister and married to Ying Suet the princess in a bizarre twist that I didn't witness as I was already this close to quitting this series.

By this time Lai Kuan already loves Wong Po Siu Wah who is still clueless that she is a girl and then she bumps into Temur and realised he was the King. Now the King uses all the tricks in the world to tempt Lai Kuan to confess that she is actually a woman but to no avail. At the same time Lai Kuan successfully saved her father by tricking the evil duo (that is that father and son who suspected Ying Suet was not Lai Kuan and Lai Ming Tong is Lai Kuan) that Ying Suet was pregnant with Lai Kuan's child (please don't go huh? yet). Both are sentenced to become soldiers in the outermost boundaries of the Yuan Dynasty which actually meant death in the most horrible way. Yin Yuk tried to persuade Lai Kuan to let go of her family and it was Wong Po Siu Wah who came to the rescue as that girl once saved his life.

But the King hatches more evil plans to get Lai Kuan when Lai Kuan refuses his advancement which is witnessed by the empress (who is pregnant at this point of time). He betrothed Yin Yuk to Wong Po Siu Wah but that girl realising Wong Po Siu Wah loves Lai Kuan (and I really do not know how she suddenly knew he was a she) ran away to let them be free to love one another. The king refused to let go and so Lai Kuan was trapped;

accept the love of the man she did not love or run away and let her family suffer the consequences of the wrath of the king?

Tune in and find out.

The Ending Revealed
SPOILERS ALERT! SPOILERS ALERT!

Well, the King let Lai Kuan go when Lai Kuan told the King she will die if she is forced to be with him. In the end, Lai Kuan ran off with Wong Po Siu Wah and live happily ever after. What happens to poor Yin Yuk is anyone's guess. As for the 9th Duke, he tried to revolt against Temur mostly because of jealousy as he believed he deserved the throne but his father, that was Temur's grandpa loved him not. At one point he took Lai Kuan as a hostage as he planned his escape but persuaded by his own mother, he let go of all his unhappiness. He didn't mind being sentenced to death and his beloved wife, a woman he loved very much rather die with him than live alone. But they didn't die as obviously Temur let them go and both of them returned to the life they once had before the dynasty was established, then they were mere sheep herders and milking goats. Very touching actually. As for Ying Suet, she still was a princess and there was a hint of a romance with a scholar.

Comments
I have to be blunt and totally honest as to what I think of this series.


WHAT A LOAD OF CRAP!


This has got to be the worst series I have seen this year, worst of the one released last year, worst for everything it tries not to be and ends up being what I feel it is.

Maybe it's me. I read so many reviews of this series in SPCNET, all comes with at least 3 stars to 4 stars. Some praised the performances of many in this series, some said the story was funny, touching, fresh amongst other praises. I am very bothered by the glowing reviews, and I really do not know why. I guess I am bothered because no one seems bothered with what the story is trying to say, the underlying tone of it. One reviewer noticed this underlying tone but didn't elaborate on it. I guess this is good in a way because we live in the 21st century, we are supposed to be open minded and all. Frankly speaking I have no prejudice against any sexual preference, I feel if you're happy with the way you're and it doesn't involve any kind of relations with children in a sexual way, I feel go ahead, make your own day. I am not anti this or pro that. But I am bothered, because the very underlying tone of this series, in fact this whole series is talking about an issue that TVB tries hard to disguise, in a nice sort of way but fails miserably; this series to be is about homosexuality.

Of course at this point you will definitely say there's no homosexuality, as Lai Kuan is a woman from the 1st episode to the last and perhaps to eternity and beyond. Very true but it's not her that I am bothered about. It's the two men, the people that surrounds her that don't know that she is a girl that bothers the hell out of me and I hate the hypocrisy of it all.

If TVB wants to talk about homosexuality, then go ahead. In Healing Hands they tried and guess what? The one homosexual character they have became heterosexual and consequently died of AIDS contracted through his girlfriend. Isn't that ironic? And now this series. Some fans may argue till the cows come home that this series is about love, not homosexuality but let's just see it my way for a second. Let me explain the hypocrisy of it all;

First of all when the two men had feelings for Lai Kuan, she was always in men's clothing. No where in the entire series would suggest any of them suspected that he was a she. One very telling scene which could be interpreted both ways is this;

If you have seen the later parts, Temur all of a sudden was convinced she was a she and not a he and so this scene would in retrospect be an innocent suggestion only. If you haven't seen this part or like I could not accept the sudden realisation on the part of Temur that Lai Kuan is a she since I would guess that is TVB's way of trying to fill the loophole in the story when they realised almost everyone is gay in this series was this scene;

Temur was talking to Lai Kuan and both saw animals in pairs. Temur pointed to these animals and asked Lai Kuan;

"See that pair over there? Which do you think is male and which is female? See that pair? Which is male and which is female? What then do you think of us?"

This scene basically shows that Temur is trying to fish some confession of affection from Lai Kuan, so they are like a male and a female and so made for each other. What I could see was he was trying to say in a relationship (a sexual relationship), one partner will play the masculine role (such as Temur) and one will take on the feminine role (that is Lai Kuan, quite obviously). In fact that was what transpired. Indeed I was shocked. There are more suggestions towards the end. Even Wong Po Siu Wah confesses he loves "third brother" that is Lai Kuan.

What surprises me even more is the people surrounding them; no one seems to be bothered by two men running after one young man, especially since they do not know that that man is a woman. Get what I am trying to say here? It's like a normal practice.

And what's worse is that Lai Kuan is so feminine, the way she talks, walks, even pouts. Perhaps men in the past were a bit on the effeminate side and so it didn't arouse any suspicion but frankly, I am sure nobody was THAT BLINDED. The most interesting thing is Yin Yuk, who is a very pretty and feminine girl and when two guys look at the other way instead of at her, I am sure warning bells should be ringing in any normal human being.

At this point of time I am sure you're repulsed by either of the following;

1. that I would dare to suggest this series would dare to suggest the suggestion no one dares to suggest even if dared to suggest it in a suggestive manner;

2. that I must be a homo-phobic; or

3. that I must be over interpreting certain elements in this series meaning I should just watch it for watching sake and surely I must find this series interesting and entertaining.

First of all, as to point 1, I guess no one really think much about this point because;

a. you're young and hip, and I am old and craggy and so I must be outdated and you're so called updated and modern, nothing surprises you;

b. it's no big deal, it's just a series and refer to point 3.

I guess I am old and I find it a big deal if this series' story doesn't make any sense at all.

Secondly as to point 2 I have only to say I am not homo-phobic, I appreciate even people of my own sex though I do not fantasize about having a lesbian relationship and I am really those type that says "Whatever makes you happy, go for it so long it doesn't involve sordid stuff with children". So I am not homo-phobic.

And thirdly, I guess perhaps you're right; why argue, just watch it and just enjoy it. But that's the problem. This series' most interesting plot is the suggestion, the hint of homosexuality and without it the series is bland, boring, bodoh (Malay for stupid).

Ok, so let's talk about the plot and ignoring that sordid stuff.

Excuse me but what's new? Seen it before in many series, love, life and whatever. The worst part has to be when the group has little money and how they got their money in a very long winded way.

And then the entire focus is on the lead character, Man Lai Kuan. Then one logical solution must be that Man Lai Kuan MUST be interesting, and her character must be endearing if not at least watchable. And the joke? Man Lai Kuan is such a boring character to watch. We go through her indecisiveness when it comes to who she loves, we see her being oh so bright in so many things and being more stupid in many other stuff. For someone so bright, she isn't that bright. To me she is intelligent but really that genius kind of person? Tell me where this series says so. Don't quote to me scenes where she wins in this or scores in that; it's just that everybody else is stupid or perhaps she is smarter but smartest? How about more dramatic? How about gender-confused?

Then there's Wong Po Siu Wah who has loads of scenes but really zero things to do, except for standing there, big eyes, straight dark and heroic and then what? What does he do? Nothing, perhaps wondering is he in love with Lai Kuan the man or something. Strange thing is every guy seems to be in love with Lai Kuan (well at least the two darkest and most good looking ones) and yet there's the pretty Ying Suet and Yin Yuk which the two guys never notice at all. Strange isn't it? One of the worst was when she was dressed as a she in an opera show and the two guys just couldn't take their eyes off her and at this mind, please let me remind you she is still a he in their minds.

When did they started to think of she being a he as a she? I don't know because there's no indication whatsoever they were suspecting anything at all and all of a sudden Temur said he suspected it along and there I was wondering when was that? To me that was a lame attempt to cover the loopholes; it is more consistent to argue that he never suspected really, but he just suspected Lai Kuan was effeminate, in a more feminine role than a more masculine role.

So what's so great about Man Lai Kuan? I don't know. At times she seems petty. When she saves her father and punishes the evil duo into prison and pitiful Yin Yuk came begging for help, when Lai Kuan notices that bracelet given by Wong Po Siu Wah given to Yin Yuk, she becomes insanely jealous. I mean what she expects? The man to confess his love for her when she is still in man's clothing? Isn't it weird then? And whilst poor Yin Yuk is crying her hearts out over her family in prison facing what is akin to death sentence, Lai Kuan worries about whether the guy loves her or not, not because she thinks those two jerks deserve to die but because of jealousy. Of course she is not obligated to care for her enemies but Yin Yuk is a nice girl and in some ways Lai Kuan is blinded by her jealousy. And in a way I think Lai Kuan is a hypocrite. So the evil duo did something really bad to her father, and almost to Ying Suet but to stoop so low to punish them by lying to the 9th Duke and everybody else, aren't they no different from the evil duo? Where's the honour, and where's the integrity?

Let's then focus on something wonderful about this series, the ending.

It's not wonderful because it's so touching but it's great because it's the end. No more of this crap, hogging the prime time. I so look forward to the next series, A Case of Misadventure I just lost patience with this series about 30% of the way into the series. Even when Lok Sun ended, this series was still going on and on and on and on about two homosexuals and one confused woman. Again I am not homo-phobic. I just don't like how TVB handled the issue, and then wrapping it in a nice package akin to Leung Shan Pak and Chuk Ying Toi story when it's just so different. There's nothing original with this series and nothing touching or emotional. It just never end!

So if the story is that bad, surely the performance could be at least good, right? Not quite.

Performances Evaluated
Michelle Yip
I wouldn't call her a miscast; I would say she is daring as an actress to accept a role where she is always like 90% of the time in very bland clothing and the rest of the 10% in dressings ill suited for her. When she dresses like a man, she looks like a woman, albeit a plain woman. When she dresses like a woman, she looks unfeminine, very weird. Looks aside, her acting is simply inadequate to the point of frustratingly opera-ish and unreal. Many praised her performance and for what reasons I do not know. What I can see is one scary looking woman, her eyes always too wide, too huge, her voice too high or too emotional, her face lacking of emotion other than plain worry look. I think I said the same about Charmaine Sheh some years back, always either the worry look or the happy look. Whilst Charmaine may be animated in her features, and her voice really irritates the hell out of me when she is screaming, at least she isn't so opera-ish. Michelle Yip looks like she is starring in an opera show, every single emotion or movement must be done over the top without much control. Either she is so much in control that she looks constipated (or so darn happy to the point of bursting) or she is so lacking in control that she looks like she was sleep walking through everything. I would not call her wooden but the best word I can describe her brand of acting is opera-ish or some might term it as over acting. I guess over acting or drama queen is not too bad a word to use here.

Raymond Lam
He is good looking in here, looking every bit as heroic as Wong Po Siu Wah should be but just refer to my comments about Michelle Yip and every word applies here as well except for the over acting part. Here he is so controlled in his acting he seems rather weird. I can't describe it except to say his brand of acting in here makes me think he is not acting at all but pretending to be someone. Of course acting is about pretending but really this guy's acting in here is so unreal, so surreal, so fake. I do like Raymond Lam but with in opera-ish actress in this series already so irritating to me, having another is really quite a torture. And plus, he has absolutely nothing substantial to do in here, his acting is not even stretched, not one muscle on his face even moved at all, at least not in a significant way. I would still term this as over the top kind of acting, except it's more of an under acting than an over acting but nevertheless there is some kind of extremity in here. Again, the drama king.

Joe Ma
I swear I can never look at this actor the same anymore. His character is so obviously prone to homosexuality and the way he treated his empress who did so much for him is unforgivable. I hated his Temur and Joe Ma however a likeable actor could not break the character Temur from the villain-dom. Some might say his Temur is just desperate to you know possess Lai Kuan and I would agree but to me he is not a super villain of any kind. He's more like a big little kid who couldn't get his favourite toy and so he wants to make sure no one gets it. Just so happens his favourite toy is Ken the doll and not Barbie the doll if you get my meaning. An interesting character to watch but really, I can never ever look at Joe Ma the same anymore.

Rain Lau
Is she that funny in here? I beg to differ. Instead of role as a servant, I'd rather watch her in a small role. She doesn't need to do much in this series except following Michelle's character around and that is just so wasteful of this actress' talent. I find her character boring and devoid of any personality and it's not Rain Lau's fault.

The actor who plays Ah Song Kor (if you know his name, do tell)
I like this actor and I think he is a bit like Marco Ngai; very flexible as an actor but wouldn't do well in heroic or roles of nobility. Other than that he can act in any role very convincingly. Quite a good performance.

Tavia Yeung
I first saw her in Awakening Story or rather didn't see her because she wasn't very noticeable. She looks so much like Maggie Cheung Hor Yee that's the resemblance is quite scary, except for her eyes, which is rather narrow and small. In this series I really do not know what to say of her character. She has a tendency to be like Raymond Lam; acting in an over the top way but not necessarily overacting. She still looks like she is sleep walking or rather like what I said in my review of Whatever It Takes; she looks like she is possessed or "jampi-ed" (someone cast a spell on her type of looks). Her acting? Rather amateurish and not very inspiring.

Myolie Wu
Many disliked her character Yin Yuk, rather useless character they say. I would say so is every other character in this series. I remember watching her in Colourful Life and I said given time she would flourish as an actress because she is so young. She has the talent and the natural-ness in her to succeed as a character actress. Look at her hair in recent pictures and you know this girl doesn't care much for looks or publicity. I find her acting in here very satisfying, the one who could actually act decently in a role that is normal and decent except her clothing and make up reminds me of a woman involved in the olden days PR job (as in prostitution). Other than that I feel Myolie Wu is one of those young natural talents to look for and quite a pity she may not be as pretty as most other actresses but she has character so hopefully she may be given more varied roles to act in.

Natalie Wong
Still as thin as ever but this actress can really eat in those food travelogues. Her acting is so-so but still effective as the suffering Empress in the sense that I felt for her character.

Liu Kai Chi
The only reason ever to watch this series for his brilliant portrayal of the tortured, jealous and angry 9th Duke. Dark skinned, fierce looking and with a deep husky voice, he is one scary 9th duke. It's very easy to see why Temur is very intimidated by this man because he possesses such a powerful and demanding presence. And yet there is a gentle side to him as in his love for his wife. I love Liu Kai Chi's portrayal in here and his love for his wife, that one scene where both of them decided to die together was touching. Considering this series has such a bad storyline and such a weak script, the character of 9th duke came to life because of Liu Kai Chi. Kudos to him.

Everybody else
The veterans as usual were wonderful but in a junk like this, you can't expect them to give the performance of a lifetime. I do wonder, do they shake their heads when they read the script?

Verdict
This series is a nightmare. Avoid at all cost. Why waste your money watching this piece of junk when there's much more other junks out there that is a cut above this junk? Pure junk. However if you're interested in muted controversy (muted because nobody seems bothered at all at the implications and insinuations of this series), this is the series for you.


Rating
For once a rating that truly reflects the standard rating I created .. I have to give thus dud a (and I am being really generous, because of Liu Kai Chi and the scandals this series represented)

Interesting Observation
At the end of this review of mine, I came to a conclusion on my earlier observation about myself as a reviewer and a "senior citizen" in the age of open-ess and anything and everything will do. I guess I am bothered with the fact that I was even bothered in the first place. Maybe it's just me to jump on such "small" issues and make it the only issue in the entire review. So in reviewing my review of this review, I guess I could just take out all the elements that I thought to exist in this series and what my rating would be?

Far worse. A zero because my 1/2 point is given for the fact there lies such controversies.

You know if TVB were to really make a series about a homosexual couple (be they women or men) would you watch this couple's trial and tribulations? Maybe focusing on the acceptance by their families and public? I would think such a daring series would deserve a viewing and some sequels.

And I guess I should end this review with a question which I shall attempt to answer as my cue to shut up;

"Must in every relationship, gay or straight that one partner must adopt a masculine role and the other a feminine role?"

My answer? That depends on what is masculine and what is feminine. Someone must wear the pants in a relationship and depending on your interpretation on whether women calls the shot in making decisions or men calling the shots, I would say yes, there must be one masculine and one feminine. When I say masculine it doesn't mean rippling muscles, and on the basis the one who wears the pants calls the shots (meaning men calling the shots), I would say the masculine one will make the decision and the feminine one will in their own subdued way influence the masculine towards such a decision. Basically what I am trying to say is women always win, one way or the other.


2 comments:

  1. You hate this serie so much that you make such a long review?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous5.12.11

    I happen to like this series a lot.. would give it a 4/5 stars.. some of your reason stated is quite bias.. I think you just don't like the general theme of masculine and feminine of the story.. I on the other hand find it a joy to watch and one of the best ancient comedy tvb produced.. oo.. and the theme songs are very nice too: kelly chen and raymond lam songs... ^^

    ReplyDelete

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