Girl$ [nom nom] is an interesting release from FUNimation and their Giant Ape media brand of foreign films. A Hong Kong film from 2010, the movie focuses on the lives of girls in Hong Kong that work as compensated dates, during a time where more younger girls were getting into the life thanks to the ease of the internet. Showing the lives and reasons for their choice of work, do these girls’ lives offer a unique story, insight, or none of the above?
The first noticeable thing about this film is the subtitle [nom nom], confusing at first to an English speaking consumer, the term in fact refers to the common term given to prostitution workers in Hong Kong. Being the center of the film itself, the story focuses on four girls that have some stake in the life of a compensated date. Compensated dates being a date where the man will pay for the girl’s time and sex is a possibility, but not a given, thus skimming on the edge of the stigma of prostitution. The girls, named Gucci, Icy, Ronnie, and Lin, all reflect different reasons and choices for working the job. Gucci wants to pay off her expensive taste in designer purses with her virginity, Icy wants to provide for her and her boyfriend finding dates for the other girls, Ronnie wants to find some fun outside her pampered lifestyle, and Lin wants to find some any sort of affection she can. There is however a fifth girl, Silver, who reflects the dangers that the life can have. With a wide range of characters, the film does an excellent job presenting them as anything but flat or static.
Mostly a drama based around the characters, there is not much in the way of an overarching story. There are events that lead to later developments, but for the most part the film is about how the girls react and deal with these events than about the events themselves. This works well in this case, as the main subject is the girls and their friendship instead of major events dictating the experience. This makes it stronger and more personal because the stakes are made evident in the opening scene, it all comes down to their lives.
A film like Girl$ would be very easy to end up seeming overly preachy, but the way that it does turn out is very honest. The ways the girls are presented, interact with each other, and react to all of the situations they face are incredibly realistic with almost no flaws in logic. This comes from a great job from the director and performances by the actresses, to focus a side of the world some may as soon avoid and present it in a way that doesn’t condemn or glorify, but simply show.
A live action movie, there is still plenty to say about the visual style because it doesn’t carry itself with live action only. With many of the conversations occur through messaging, forums, and other forms of chat, some of these conversations are presented with cartoon versions of the characters to reflect their online personas. Other instances, when conversing with potential clients, feature the text alone to present the anonymous aspect of how their business is conducted. These instances fit well within the movie as a whole and add a nice depth to scenes that would have otherwise been tiresome exposition.
Being about prostitution, it is always difficult to gauge just how much nudity and sex will be actually present. Girl$ does a good job presenting it without being excessive about the matter. There are a number of sex scenes with nudity throughout the movie, but the focus is mainly on the girl and her emotions than the sex itself. How long the scenes last also vary depending on the emotions involved, with pleasant experiences for the girls being longer scenes and those that they would sooner forget about being segmented into cuts between the sex scenes and them sometime after, in a way mimicking remembering things some doesn’t want to actually think about.
Spoken entirely in Cantonese, the DVD version contains no dub instead relying solely on subtitles for all of the dialogue and text. This presents a lot of text to read in some places, but sticking entirely to the original language track allows the performances of the girls to shine through. There are some places where the online conversations also utilizes the audio to convey how anonymous those the characters speak to online are, with important unseen characters’ messages being read through a digital filter instead of the girls reading them aloud. So, sticking strictly to the Cantonese overall is a plus.
The music used in the film does a great job reflecting the musical style of present Hong Kong, with a soundtrack the largely features Ghost Style, as well as both English and Cantonese lyrics. This use of modern rap and pop music adds to making the film seem true enough to life and ensuring the feel of Hong Kong as a setting. The soundtrack also makes a good job capturing both the girls ups and downs throughout the story.
In addition to the standard collection of previews for some of the other releases under the Giant Ape brand for foreign films, the extras also include 7 making of videos that give more detail about how the film was made. Ranging from a minute to three minutes in length, the videos cover more about the director and how he worked with the girls, each of the different characters, and most interestingly how they handled filming certain scenes. While all pretty short they do provide some nice additions where a complete lack of special features is the norm.
Girl$ [nom nom] is certainly not for everyone, which is kind of an understatement for a film focused on four girls’ lives as a compensated dates in Hong Kong. Those that give it a chance however should find that the characters are interesting, enjoyable, and likable. More about the girls themselves than the trade they engage in, the film features music and style that captures the setting to fit its characters and meet them halfway to provide a movie that certainly feels real.
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