I was prepared to end up regretting watching THE ROOFTOP, Jay Chou’s second film as a director. I’m some fan, yes. But the film has been in the news for the wrong reasons: alleged environmental violations, labour disputes plus all the negative news that come with being Jay Chou.
THE ROOFTOP is like watching a Jay Chou concert, except this is a film, a musical-slash-martial-arts-slash-romance-slash-comedy to be exact. Despite criticisms of it being messy, it was a fun film, mostly thanks to the ensemble cast. Jay, as Wax, may be the lead but he is ably supported by a big cast that includes his friends, band and dancers. Will Liu seems to be nowhere though until I checked the credit and saw that he played the bar owner that I don’t remember. There are the guys from Nan Quan Mama, The Drifters, Alan Ko and Eric Tsang plus Andrew Lau (INITIAL D director) in a cameo. That’s what’s nice about watching Jie-lun’s productions, you see familiar faces so you won’t get lost.
Many have referenced this film to GREASE and WEST SIDE STORY. In general though, the film looked like a high school musical production, not that it’s a bad thing. But perhaps this could have worked better as a stage musical because as Jay Chou’s sophomore effort as a director, it does not compare to SECRET.
I did enjoy the humor and the crack of a soundtrack though there were times it distracted from the story, and what’s with playing that English song (I thought it was Vincent but turns out it’s If) over and over again? I couldn’t help thinking too if Jay took a page from his romance with Hanna Quinlivan with the storyline. The lead female character, Starling, brings to mind his real-life young girlfriend who is an upstart herself (and unfortunately, will never get past Jay’s shadow). And the way Wax is with his buddies was realistic or maybe that’s the impression because the characters were all played by his real friends so the onscreen interactions were natural and didn’t require much effort.
My favorite characters were Broccoli (A-Lang) and Egg (Devon). I just loved their repartee and they made the film watchable. See how they steal the show, even in the photo below (Broccoli is on the left, Egg on the right).
I don’t really get what’s happening to Jay’s career. Obviously, he has hit a slump with his music and film works. The key is really reinvention. I thought having a young girlfriend could give him some new inspiration. Maybe not?
THE ROOFTOP: No regrets. But no repeats either.
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