Merry Wife, The
Director: Kim Joo-yong
Cast: Li Qing, Lin yun
Remake has become a popular trend in recent years. In Hollywood, massive Asian films have been, are being or are going to be remade; While in Hong Kong, remakes of mandarin and cantonese films from the fifties and sixties are coming out one by one. For instance, Joe Ma's Dummy Mommy, Without a Baby is a remake of a Chor Yuen's film in the sixties, while James Yuen's My Wife is 18 is also said to be inspired by an old Shaw Brothers' film, that is, Merry Wife, The (1971).
The Merry Wife features a love story between a 35 year-old teacher Lin Min (Lin Yun) and a young girl Jin-jin (Li Qing) who is 17. Lin Min and Jin-jin get married in response to the dying wish of Jin-jin's mother. Later Jin-jin enters the high school Lin Min is teaching as a transfer student. The two of them decide to keep their relationship a secret. But their plan is ruined by a group of nosy students and teachers... This film is quite short, with a duration of less than 90 minutes, the plot is not very fruitful as expected. Some of the scenes are getting quite repetitive. For instance, dance and dating in the restaurant happen quite often, it seems that the teachers and the students just love to dance and date in the restaurant. Apart from these two activities, they simply have no other habits at all.
The main attraction of this film is Li Qing. As an award winning actress, Li's performance is vivid and subtle. Even though she doesn't look like 17 at all (with her heavy make-up and mature body, she looks at least 27 to me), we are still easily convinced to believe that she is really young diegetically. Her appearance and gestures are also glamorous. I believe this is what you call stardom effect. It is a pleasure to see her performing on the screen. Comparatively speaking, lead male Lin Yun is little low profile in the film. His character is quite contradictory. Although this teacher is supposed to be open-minded (for marrying a young girl), his behavior is rather conservative sometimes. Perhaps the focus of this film is Li Qing, that may explain why Lin Yun's character is never fully developed.
Story-wise, this is not a qualified effort. The script contains many plotholes that are quite distracting. Most of the characters are also not well exploited. In the beginning, we see Lin Min and Jin-jin are in love, but we are never told how they get to know each other, or why Lin Min would fall in love with such a young girl. Then right after that, they are already having a wedding ceremony. It is really confusing as the background of the characters are not presented at all. Furthermore, as I have mentioned above, Lin Yun's character is never developed. As we are informed, this character is only a middle class high school teacher, but he lives in an extravagant apartment and drives a beautiful car. This character is not believable at all as he looks more like a millionaire than a teacher! The school life is also not realistic at all. In short, the whole story is actually quite pointless. Most of the conflicts can actually be avoided if the characters are able to use their rusty brains to think. For instance, when Lin Min's colleague Mr. Yau asks for Jin-jin's address, why doesn't Lin Min makes up an excuse or simply gives him a his friend's address? Why does he have to create trouble for himself?
It may not be fair to compare The Merry Wife with My Wife is 18, as the production limitation as well as the budget are totally different. However, with a similar premise and plotline, My Wife is 18 is without doubt better than its predecessor in terms of story, cinematic techniques and perhaps entertainment value. Nevertheless, as a pioneer of this genre in Hong Kong, The Merry Wife's achievement is still worth to be recognized. It is especially recommended for the viewers who want to witness the star power of Li Qing.
Reviewed by: Kantorates