Review: Delightful Performances Make TEMPORARY FAMILY An Above Average Real Estate Comedy
To speculate on property amid Hong Kong's rapidly changing real estate market conditions is to speculate on emotions, according to Cheuk Wan Chi's (aka Vincci/GC Goo Bi) Temporary Family, a simple but perfectly enjoyable urban comedy that gets most of its energy from the all-around impressive chemistry between Nick Cheung and Sammi Cheng. Beyond finely tuned performances from the four top-billed actors (the aforementioned veterans of HK cinema + Angelbaby and Oho), what makes Temporary Family stand out from the crowd of recently released run-of-the-mill HK comedies is a very straightforward and credible script that fortunately doesn't place too much emphasis on the ongoing romantic shenanigans, but puts an amusing spin on the 'unlikely flatmates' formula instead.
Through various more or less plausible cinematic ventures modern directors try to expose the cutthroat real estate development, an issue that's been plaguing HK (and much of South-East Asia) for quite some time now. In 2010's Dream Home Pang Ho-cheung showed that perhaps the riskiest - but still horrifyingly imaginable - solution to survive in such an unpredictable environment is to go on a killing spree. With the overwrought and poorly written 2014 crime-thriller Overheard 3 - hopefully the last entry in the series - writer-director duo Alan Mak and Felix Chang went back in time and explored the darkest secrets of the real estate market prior to the hand-over of Hong Kong to China in 1997.
Despite being ostensibly a summer season comedy, Temporary Family also touches upon a variety of serious social issues - including the omnipresent housing problem - that Hong Kongers have to struggle with on a day-to-day basis. Such references are cleverly incorporated into the narrative, and don't really make the film any more weighty than it should be. Both locals and foreign viewers will certainly understand them, which is also a plus.
The story begins with Lung (Cheung), a realtor who desperately needs a lot of money to satisfy Julie's (Myolie Wu) - his flight attendant girlfriend - beautifully ridiculous dream of a 1000-square foot apartment that would safely accommodate their family, if they eventually decide to have one. Though obviously shocked, Lung's definitely up for the challenge because for him meeting the requirements of his picky sweetheart is equivalent to settling down. However, considering the constantly changing nature of the real estate marketplace, what Lung is actually looking for can be summed up with one word - miracle.
Still determined to fulfill the almost impossible one-year goal set by Julie, Lung decides to go all in and purchases a luxurious property on the Peak from a client in need. Given that he's not able to pay the full amount on his own, Lung comes up with a smart plan and quickly enlists the help of his stepdaughter Hak (Angelbaby) and Very Wong (Oho), a wealthy young intern working at his firm. A positively farcical story becomes even more comical when a flat-seeking divorcee Charlotte (Cheng) appears as if from nowhere and immediately partners with them.
The real fun begins when the guys move into their new apartment and start living together as the titular temporary family. Apart from Lung and Angelbaby, who despite their differences are still considered relatives, they're all total strangers constantly searching for that perfect moment to sell the property at a much higher price. In a rather foreseeable turn of events, individual attitudes towards the whole situation gradually change and, as potential buyers come and go, the apartment becomes something more than just a temporary home.
Nick Cheung shows a surprisingly solid set of comic chop but, lets be clear, he's not really playing against type here. Although, surely, for most younger viewers he's recognizable only as Dante Lam's go-to-guy and a star of many intense and gritty action films, back in the day he used to star in HK comedies of rather questionable quality.
In Temporary Family Cheung gets enough screen time to make his character fairly likeable, and yet on the final scorecard he's still overshadowed by Sammi Cheng's charismatic turn as a woman confused by her own emotions. Working with material that looks like it's been made especially for her, Cheng delivers a heartfelt and balanced performance, shifting gears from drama to comedy in an utterly smooth fashion. Angelbaby and Oho play their parts well and even steal a few scenes, but they aren't given enough space to develop their onscreen relationship. To spice up the mix, cameos (Jiang Wu tops the list) are thrown in left, right, and center.
Temporary Family benefits immeasurably from flavors of humor and romance that keeps its appeal from being a Cheung-Cheng cash cow only. In the end, it even makes up for the sometimes-lethargic pace and few annoyingly repetitive gags. Classy technical credits shine thanks to the film's gorgeous setting and rich window shots. The backdrop of Victoria Harbour, as well as the dramatic view of HK's nighttime skyline, looks especially stunning.