Watched Jun 15, 2012
Even more so than Vulgaria [which also screened at NYAFF 2012], this film flirts with daring material and then withdraws to a far, far safer place; unlike the Hong Kong film, however, this Taiwanese production takes nearly all its entertainment value with it in its abrupt retreat into the highly conventional. Opening with a startling series of school-set teen comedy episodes that include a couple of buddies masturbating right in the middle of class, novelist Giddens Ko's first feature is not the envelope-pushing coming-of-age tale one might take it to be at first. Initially self-aware to a disarming degree, You Are The Apple of My Eye almost seems to use its intelligence as an attention-grabber that it can then dispense with once it's assured that the audience is hooked. For example, we're introduced to one character as the "fat" friend because, as the script explains, all such stories of course need a fat comic relief figure... and it's hard not to smile at the way the film is deconstructing itself... until gradually we come to realize that this character, and most of the others, are used merely to provide some colorful antics here and there. No question that leads Michelle Chen and Ko Chen-tung display a lot of charisma here, but the film as a whole barely manages to escape being a glorified calling card for their talent and good looks. One also admires the way that You Are The Apple of My Eye does not shy away from some of the downbeat romance that worked so well in, say, (500) Days of Summer, but undermining all its dramatic substance is a very off-putting sense of self-importance--the music swells, freighted looks and sighs ensue, we get flashback montages to incidents that feel like they occurred only five minutes earlier, and so on. The result is a polished film with a handful of nice moments but a far cry from the bittersweet exercise in nostalgia it's apparently shooting for.