31 January, 2016

"Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong" Review (****)

Brian Greenberg and Jamie Chung star in "Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong."

Last week I attended the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival for the very first time, catching a screening of first-time writer/director Emily Ting’s “Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong” as a part of Access Night. Starring real-life couple Jamie Chung and Bryan Greenberg, Ting’s walk-and-talk romantic comedy shines under the brightly-lit streets of nighttime Hong Kong. Unfortunately, the film occasionally falls victim to Hollywood’s many romantic comedy tropes. The city as the third character? Check. Flirtatious meet-cute? Double check. However, the film is able to differentiate itself from being just another 'rom-com' thanks largely in part to Ting’s unique perspective paired with Chung and Greenberg’s natural flow on screen.

A one-night chance encounter between American expat Josh (Greenberg) and LA-based toy designer Ruby (Chung) leads to an evening stroll through the lively streets of Hong Kong. Josh and Ruby’s initial spark is undeniable and their connection inevitably grows as the night (and the film) goes on. The short walk turns into drinks at a bar and innocent questions turn into intimate conversations. However, an awkward twist crashes their fairytale night and it’s not until a year later, upon a ferry boat from Hong Kong to Kowloon, do Josh and Ruby see each other again. This time things have changed: Josh has switched careers, Ruby has moved to Hong Kong, and both alas have their own significant others. But the spark and flirtatious energy between them still remains. Chung and Greenberg deliver very relaxed and natural performances as the romantic leads; their interactions are playful and their feelings genuine. 

Fun Fact: Chung and Greenberg asked for separate hotel rooms during
filming in order to maintain their sexual tension on screen. 
As a film dedicated solely to the conversation between two romantic leads on a nighttime stroll, “Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong” draws obvious comparisons to Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise.” Though Ting’s direction does not come close to Linklater’s artistry (there are a few scenes and lines of dialogue that I found particularly cheesy and bland), Ting brings something new to the tableher perspective. Her screenplay is based largely on her own experiences living in Hong Kong and as such, she is able to produce dialogue rarely spoken in mainstream films. A conversation about East-West relationship stereotypes and scenes demonstrating the cultural identity and prejudice of an Asian American living in Asia are just some examples of Ting’s unique vision. It was both refreshing and welcoming to see this through Chung and Greenberg’s playful candor on screen.

Ting describes her film as a love letter to Hong Kong, and the film's beautiful cinematography is a testament to that. "Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong" captures the hustle and bustle of the metropolis well, with frequent (yet a bit overused) shots of the city skyline, colorful neon shop signs and the crowds of tourists and locals roaming the nighttime streets. If the shots felt authentic, that’s because they were. The film was shot on-location in Hong Kong in just under two weeks, featuring locals as the film's 'extras.'

Writer-Director Emily Ting (right) at the Q&A session following the screening
It is easy to dismiss “Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong” as an uneventful indie rom-com, and I must admit I thought that too initially. But Chung and Greenberg’s genuine and flirtatious performances grew on me as the film went on and Ting’s screenplay kept me interested. It wasn’t until the ending (which received quite a reaction from the audience) did I realize just how invested I was in the outcome of Ruby and Josh’s serendipitous relationship.

4 out of 5 stars. 

“Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong” screened at SCADShow on January 28th as a part of the 16th annual Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. It will be released in select theaters (including a week-long run at Atlanta's Plaza Theatre) and On Demand on February 12th. 

1 comment:

  1. I come to this place every now and then. The place is really nice, the crowd is full of regulars, and the food and drink specials are pretty good! The staff at Chicago venues is great and really gets to know your name. Totally worth your time on any night for good food and drink.