Pang Ho-cheung’s latest film “Missbehaviour” is a light and bubbly comedy of friends, held together by a downpour of gags, ranging from slapstick, to sarcastic, to toilet humour vulgarity. The Hong Kong director is a bona fide master of grown-up comedy, being responsible of many excellent additions to the genre, from the popular thirty-something romance trilogy (“Love Off the Cuff”, “Love in a Puff” & “Love in the Buff”) to the more extreme “Vulgaria”, “SDU: Sex Duties Unit” (as writer) and “VA”.
Not a proper Lunar New Year’s movie, “Missbehaviour” (Gōngxǐ bā pó, Congratulation Bitches) is in fact a reminder of the importance of getting together and not neglecting friendship. It is indeed what New Year’s holiday is all about – friends and family – and therefore it fits quite well in the festive spirit. The film focuses on a group of 8 close friends, members of a WhatsApp chat called “Ba Po” (“Bitches”, as they jokingly call each other) that for a series of different reasons haven’t been meeting in person for a while.
May (Gigi Leung) is a policewoman and is still mad at Isabel (Isabel Chan) as she thinks she stole her boyfriend (Pango Ho-cheung in a cameo); also, sexy but untalented writer Rosalin (Dada Chan) and ukulele player Minibus (internet sensation Yanki Din) used to be band-mates but are now on no-speaking terms; kindergarten teacher Eva (Jo Koo), June (June Lam Siu-ha) and gay couple Boris and Frank (Tan Han-jin and Chui Tien-you) complete the group. It’s all-normal routine for the group of old friends, but something is going to shake that idle moment and bring the group together again.
It all starts when June makes a “boo boo” at her workplace. She uses her bossy-and-stressed-out boss’ (Isabella Leong) breast milk from the office fridge, to make a – highly appreciated – “flat white” for an important client. Now she is in trouble; she has time until the end of the working day (5pm) to replace the breast milk before the boss realises it has vanished. And who, better than the “Ba Po friends”, can help June?
The mission proves more difficult than it may sounds and, first of all, they need to overcome the past grudges. Isabel is on the case and is one who alerts the others. May takes a long time to agree to listen to her alleged love rival but one by one, the group comes together, ready for action. Finding breast milk is an odd task and the search will take the pals to all sorts of places around Hong Kong, bookshops, kindergarten, private houses, and – for the action finale – in a shopping mall.
If the plot sounds silly to you, you are right, it is. But it is also funny, light, and has a charming intent. The adventure will remind the group of pals the importance of overcoming grudges and futile bickering, and not letting petty misunderstandings taint true friendship.
Pang Ho-cheung has filmed “MIssbehaviour” in only 14 days with a group of his own friends and regular collaborators as cast and cameos, and apparently with a great deal of improvisation on set. It looks like they had lots of fun making it and it really shows. Unashamedly full of toilet humour and raunchy jokes, the film is also stuffed full of in-jokes and very local topics that will not be caught by the “non-hogkonger” audiences, like the blue people one, the fire-fighter mascot (I had to search for it) and many other local web memes. However, the film is totally watchable even with a hit-and-miss contextualisation, if only for the energy that oozes from the Bitches Group! Not last, it’s very refreshing seeing a gay couple portrayed in the most natural and cool way, especially in a Hong Kong comedy.
“Missbehaviour” is punctuated with catchy songs and the end title one is to be watched and enjoyed. Photography and editing are bright and fast, just like the story. Acting is good and it is fun to spot so many familiar faces of thirty something Hong Kong actors and cameos from veterans like “Love In…” trilogy protagonist Miriam Yeung, and ubiquitous Lam Suet playing the rude waiter (another Hong Kong peculiarity), Susan Show Yin Yin as a nanny, Roy Szeto as a pervert supplier and many more.
Definitely not one of Pang Ho-cheung’s major films, but harmless, contemporary and adult fun. Fluffy and entertaining, especially if you are – like me – a sucker for Hong Kong trademark silliness.