Linger

"Bad"

Linger Review


A general rule of thumb for ghost movies: When neither the living nor the dead characters show any signs of life, you have a serious problem. Such is the failure of Linger, a Hong Kong film with virtually the same premise as Ghost. Poor character development, lifeless acting, a pedestrian script, and unnecessary subplots make Linger pale in comparison to the movie it copied (which I never imagined to be possible). And though director Johnnie To's attempt at horror/melodrama is tragically hilarious, this film won't make you laugh or weep. The only lingering emotion you'll have is regret -- from the time and money lost to this film.

Linger centers on a college couple, Dong (Vic Chou) and Yan (Li Bing Bing), whose relationship isn't strong from the start. We learn Dong is cheating on his girlfriend, the college "beauty queen," to sleep with Yan. In the introduction of the movie, Yan is wearing Dong's basketball jersey in front of Dong's girlfriend -- a move so conspicuous it's silly -- which instigates the adulterous couple's fight, leading to a shockingly unrealistic motorcycle accident that results in Dong's death.

Three years later, Dong still isn't over his failed relationship with Yan. You would imagine being dead would motivate one to move on, since it defeats any possibility of getting back together, but Dong is a clingy individual even beyond the grave. So he decides to haunt Yan, repeatedly asking her, "Did you love me or not?" -- just as she's trying to quit taking her happy meds. Quite a compassionate man.

With Linger, To has an opportunity to explore character psychology -- that is, what makes Dong so needy, insecure, and obsessive? We receive a tidbit of information -- that Dong's father was emotionally abusive -- but a single scene from Dong's childhood is all we get, and it's hardly enlightening. The film certainly would have benefited from a deeper analysis of Dong's past, like the illustrious journey that Michel Gondry took us through Joel's memories in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

And although Yan is one of the main characters, we learn nothing about her, aside from the fact she's been in therapy ever since Dong's death. A conversation with a therapist would have been an easy, albeit cheap, method to flesh out Yan's character using flashbacks. But the therapist's only role in the film is to prescribe Yan pills; To wastes yet another opportunity. Perhaps To felt he couldn't do much with these actors, since Rosie O'Donnell could probably act out a more convincing romance with a stick of butter.

To top it off, additional characters and subplots are thrown into the film in a seemingly desperate attempt to add flavor to a bland concoction. Unfortunately this doesn't help, since those characters aren't fleshed out either, and the subplots are so contrived they're hardly comprehensible.

If To was going for spooky, he could've made Dong a vengeful, psychotic ghost bent on tormenting Dong until she killed herself so they could reunite in the afterlife. That would've been cool, right? Or if To was going for a tragic romance, he could've made Dong's relationship with Yan more meaningful and thus worthy of sympathy (which, I hate to admit, Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore did right in Ghost). There's a lot of couldas that would have made Linger successful. But To chose a failing route: a romance between two characters without profiles; a relationship without history; and ultimately, a film without a heart.

Aka Hu die fei.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 88 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 10th January 2008

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5

IMDB: 5.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Johnnie To

Producer: Cheung Hong Tat, Johnnie To, Siu Ming Tsui

Starring: as Foo Yan Kai, Maggie Shiu as Ms. Chan, Vic Chou as Zheng Jing Dong, Lam Suet as Yan's Roomate, as Dr. Yuen, Ronald Yan as Doctor

Also starring: ,

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