What is a teenage girl to do when her boyfriend leaves her? Well…not much, I guess?
Erm…well…this is on Youtube, but the video length is misleading and you will need to get subtitles from somewhere else if you do not understand Cantonese. Approximately 90 minutes.
Thirteen year-old Cookie is in a funk. Her boyfriend is gone; he is probably somewhere in Hong Kong, but he does not contact her or respond to her attempts to contact him. One of her best friends, Mosquito, has been sent to reform school and she has not contacted Cookie either. Her mother is long gone, leaving her with a father whom she dislikes.
Her other friends are Banana, Sissy, and Bean Curd, all slightly older than her. Banana’s mother lost her job and is kind of out of it, while her father only occasionally shows up. Banana spends a lot of her time (including class time) flirting with boys over her cellphone and then occasionally meeting them for casual sex.
Sissy is the most girly girl of the bunch, flirting with boys and trying to become a magazine model, both things highly upset Bean Curd, a somewhat butch girl who considers Sissy to be her girlfriend. Whether Sissy feels the same is…complicated.
So what do these girls do? Well, they hang out at a karaoke bar at the mall. The wander around the mall. They goof off in class, though Cookie comes in late one day and has to run laps around the courtyard. They goof off in a convenient store, and said goofing off causes them to bump into another group of girls. They get into a confrontation with these other girls and run off before anyone notices that Bean Curd totally cut one of them. Bean Curd gets in trouble for that in school, so screw school.
And speaking of screwing, Banana meets up with one of her phone friends and takes him home for sex while her mother is in the next room, either totally apathetic or completely zoned out.
While Banana is off doing her thing, Cookie, Bean Curd, and Sissy hang out by a swimming pool, complaining about school and looking curiously at some goody-two shoes girl from a higher grade. Then Cookie reveals something. It has been a long time since her last period: she might be pregnant. She probably is.
And so begins the quest to…oh, wait. They are still just ambling.
Okay, so there is a bit of a story here, but it does take a while to get going. For the most part, the movie just follows Cookie and the other girls around as they hang out and wander around aimlessly. I guess that some people could find them annoying or exasperating, and I kind of did at times. Still, this low-budget movie eventually becomes engaging despite itself.
I suppose that the implication is that Hong Kong, having been handed over by the United Kingdom to Mainland China barely three years ago, is directionless and unsure what to do. Adults are worthless, even if they seem to try. School is a joke. Friendship can just disappear the way that Mosquito disappeared from Cookie’s life. Sympathy and personal responsibility are hard to come by. Empathy and understanding do not necessarily match up. Loyalty does not necessarily equal honesty. Good behavior is suspicious. Consequences for bad behavior is rarely consistent. Self-destruction is met with apathy or encouragement.
I have seen a review of this movie make a comparison to the movie Kids by Larry Clark and…well…I can sort of see the connection. Or, at least, I can understand why some might make the connection. That said, I quite like this film and quite dislike every Larry Clark movie that I have seen, so I will try to point out ways that I feel like they are different. Granted, I have watched Kids only once and that was a long time ago, so I do not remember much. In any case though, here are some things that I feel are different…even if they are actually not. For one thing, this movie does not act all leery towards the girls aside from the occasional shot of legs. This movie can sometimes get a little surreal and show Cookie’s imagination. It is not much, but it happens. As messed up and dysfunctional as these girls are, they are there for each other…for the most part. This is actually a fairly important point at the end. The movie does seems somewhat sympathetic towards these girls, even when they do stupid or even terrible things.
There is a sense that there is a way out, even if none of them know what it is yet. The inclusion of that older girl provides the notion of an alternative way to be. While one could watch this movie and despair for the future of fourteen years ago, one could also hope that these girls are simply living through something that they will live. They do not necessarily grow out of their teenage ways, but more like they survive their teenage years…provided that they do survive their teenage years. It is not wallowing in the nihilism of youths, just portraying what is hopefully the nadir of their lives.
Well, that’s it really. If you can find it subtitled, I recommend it.
WTF ASIA 104: Miss Baek (South Korea: 2018, approx. 98 minutes)
WTF ASIA 105: Firaaq (India: 2009, approx. 99-102 minutes)