12 Nights (2000) Review

"12 Nights" Chinese DVD Cover

"12 Nights" Chinese DVD Cover

Director: Aubrey Lam
Producer: Peter Chan Ho Sun
Writer: Aubrey Lam
Cast: Cecilia Cheung Pak-Chi, Eason Chan Yik Shun, Candy Lo Hau-Yam, Nicola Cheung Sam-Yuet, Sue Au Suk-Jing, GC Goo Bi, Siu Ye Jim, Nicholas Tse Ting Fung, Stephen Fung Tak-Lun

By Woody

When I first heard about Aubrey Lam’s “12 Nights”, it was being mentioned as being a must-see for those of us who have been dumped, right up there with “Swingers” and “Chungking Express”. On November 3rd, 2002, at 5:32PM, I was dumped. No need to get too much into why I was dumped. But I can tell you this much: it really sucks being in a relationship and then all of the sudden being out of one. It’s as if the rug has been pulled out from under you and you are stuck frozen at the exact moment in which you are about to hit the floor. You feel bad, like “Shit, I’m about to hit the floor.” You have money, but no one to spend it on. You have your movies, and CD’s, and meaningless materialistic goods, which have been collecting on the shelf, but they no longer matter. You have friends, but it’s been months since you’ve talked to them, and the prospect of going back to them is like admitting defeat. And overall, you just feel shitty. Movies you watch just aren’t the same without her. Food you eat tastes like shit when she’s away. Everything is bland and flavorless; if life were a food it would be tofu. Only four things have been helping me through these shitty times. My friends, who, despite my protests, are doing their best to get me back on my feet. “Chungking Express”, which I understand now better than I ever have. “Swingers”, which allows me to laugh at what a loser I am. And finally, “12 Nights”, which is basically my relationship with that girl on film, only with better looking people and a higher budget.

Cecilia Cheung is Jeannie, your typical female. Eason Chan is Alan, your typical male. “12 Nights” takes us through 12 nights of their relationship, from the first night, when the two meet, to the last, when they split. If only I had seen this movie before I had gotten into a relationship. Then I would have known how a trivial argument can lead to a girl accusing you of “growing tired of her.” I would have known how much it hurts a girl to tell her you are busy, or that you don’t like what she is wearing. Overall, I wish I had not taken her for granted. I know I’m not alone in our relationship failing, but I was an active participant. “12 Nights” is quite brilliant, and quite painful to watch at times. Jeannie loves Alan, but can’t accept that, following that brief period at the beginning the relationship where everything is wonderful, Alan has to put her lower on his list of priorities. Alan loves Jeannie, but feels smothered and embarrassed by her. He wants to hang out with buddies from work. He needs his time at work, and his sleep. He needs space.

The film feels fresh in the beginning, as does the relationship. But as it progresses, things get more boring and stale, as does the relationship. It gets talkier, with Jeannie saying the same things over and over again, trying to get Alan to understand her, and where she’s coming from. Aubrey Lam uses these techniques to show just how boring and painful times are when you are in a failing relationship. This technique also leads to one of the best scenes of the movie, where Jeannie delivers a never ending monologue to Alan. Just as we, the audience, start feeling bored, it cuts back to Alan, asleep.

If you haven’t been in a relationship, or plan to ever be in another one, this is required viewing. This movie shows you just how they go wrong. Now that I’m starting to get into another relationship, I’m going to try and apply the knowledge that I have gained from this film into the relationship. I pray it works. I’m running out of shirts to iron!

Woody’s Rating: 9/10

By Alexander

The worst thing about this excruciatingly dull film is the horrid performance by newcomer Eason Chan (Triad Zone). Had he been exceptionally handsome, I might have excused his minimal talent as the by-product of a film industry renowned for casting models and pop stars in major roles (see also Ekin Cheng, Faye Wong, Sammi Cheng, Stephen Fung, Andy Lau, Edison Chen, at al.). However, Eason is NOT a good looking guy so for him to appear convincing as the sole object of gorgeous Cecilia Cheung’s affections, the dude better be able to A-C-T and appear to have at least one redeeming quality. Sadly, Eason bumbles about, a step slow at times and obviously overwhelmed at the prospect of sharing major screen time with one of Hong Kong’s most desirable female stars. When Jeannie (Cecilia Cheung) hits Eason’s Alan Hing over the head with a MAGAZINE, he reacts as if he’s been shot at close range with a bazooka. He doesn’t react this way to elicit laughs from the audience; rather, he reacts this way because he’s unable to feign surprise at being hit in the head with a magazine. Also, early in the film, his actions seem prompted more by a producer whispering his lines to him from off camera (“Roll your eyes NOW, Eason!”) than to anything going on in the film.

The second problem with 12 Nights is the complete dearth of sympathetic characters. As appealing as Cecilia is, it’s impossible to root for or care about her character because she is so willing to put up with what amounts to sustained emotional abuse by her dimwitted, neglectful boyfriend. 12 Nights is essentially about Alan treating Jeannie like shit for most of the film, and Jeannie taking it all in stride as if this Alan dude were the only eligible bachelor in Hong Kong. Compounding my disdain for the film was Jeannie’s inexplicable willingness to sleep with Alan late in the film despite his palpable vileness. I longed for the film to shift gears, for Cecilia’s character to drop this loser and get with either the flamboyant Nic Tse or the brooding Stephen Fung (both of whom make brief cameos).

Another of the film’s flaws was an attempt to organize the story into twelve “chapters”, with each chapter representing an evening in the lives of Alan and Jeannie. Days one to eight chronicle the budding romance of our leads but writer/director Aubrey Lam, obviously realizing 3/4 of the way through her film that she couldn’t possibly tell these character’s stories in twelve days, shamelessly cheats and fastforwards months into the future. A minor grievance, sure, but irritating nonetheless.

Alexander’s Rating: 5.5/10

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