Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Review of TVB series “Bottled Passion 我的如意狼君” (2011)

Cast (partial list of the main & supporting cast): Raymond Wong (黃浩然), Niki Chow (周麗淇), Elaine Yiu (姚子羚), Jack Wu (胡諾言), Rebecca Chan (陳秀珠), Katy Kung (龔嘉欣), Eric Li (李天翔), Joel Chan (陳山聰), Raymond Cho (曹永廉), Claire Yiu (姚嘉妮), Ching Hor Wai (程可為), Samuel Kwok Fung (郭峰), Vin Choi (蔡淇俊)


I will admit that I had doubts about watching this series at first because I’m not too keen on Niki Chow as an actress and since she is the female lead in this series, I wasn’t sure how things would turn out -- plus I'm not a fan of Elaine or Katy either (their acting has always fallen in the ‘tolerable’ category for me). However, I decided to go ahead and give the series a try primarily because of 3 reasons: 1) I’ve always liked Raymond Wong (male lead in this series) as an actor plus I like majority of the supporting cast, so I figured even if I don’t like the female leads, the rest of the cast would make up for it (and I was right to some extent); 2) I knew this was produced by Lee Tim Sing (which means there will be a certain level of quality to it) – plus Tim Gor is usually quite involved when it comes to writing the scripts for his series and I’ve enjoyed many of the series he has done in the past, so that gave me more confidence that this would be a decent series at least; and 3) the ‘pre-modern’ genre of this series is one of my favorite genres.

I’m actually very glad that I decided to give this series a chance because it turns out that I ended up LOVING this series (I know, it’s hard to believe given how particular I am with series nowadays). In fact, this is such a great series and I enjoyed it so much that it has officially become my absolute favorite series of 2011 (as well as one of my all-time favorite series from the entire decade)! To be quite honest, it has been years since I’ve encountered a series that took me on such an emotional roller coaster as this one: majority of the series made me cry (literally went through an entire box of tissues!) while some of the scenes made me laugh and others made me angry – still others had me sitting on the edge of my seat in anticipation of what was going to happen next (the suspense factor)….very few of TVB’s series in the recent decade have been able to balance all these elements so well in 1 series (usually, 1 or more of the elements is sacrificed), which is part of what made this series so memorable and awesome.

Before I go further, just a word of warning…this review will most likely be quite long, as I enjoyed this series so much that it had sort of become an ‘obsession’ of mine lately (LOL) and so obviously I have a lot to say about it…..therefore, to those willing to spare time reading this review, I sincerely thank you in advance!

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STORYLINE / SCRIPT

Normally, when doing a series review, I would talk about the cast and characters first, since most of my thoughts regarding the storyline / script will usually become apparent in the discussion about the cast. But for this particular review, I felt it was appropriate to talk about the script first because in my opinion, the absolutely well-written script and engaging storyline were amongst the biggest reasons (in addition to the fine acting from majority of the cast) why this series was so enjoyable and successful on many levels. I definitely have to applaud the scriptwriting team for putting together such a great script (and of course, part of the credit goes to producer Lee Tim Sing as well, since he always plays a huge part in writing of the scripts with all the series he produces).

One of the (many) things I like most about the script / storyline is the way the love story between Raymond Wong and Niki Chow’s characters was written (more on this piece later). I like how their relationship in the first half of the series is not the 'obvious' love relationship thing that TVB is so famous for doing, but rather, a more 'subtle romance' approach that really drives up the emotional factor. Indeed, in my opinion, the beauty of this series is in the ‘subtleness’ of the script – there were quite a few scenes where the dialogue was replaced by simple actions by the actors (hand gestures, body language, facial expressions, etc.) that in and of itself, already conveyed a wealth of emotion. With that said however, the important thing is that the writers / producer did a great job of keeping the ‘subtleness’ balanced throughout the series – meaning that they were careful to include just enough of it to keep the emotional level high, but didn’t overuse it (there were other parts of the script that were similar in style like this). Now don’t get me wrong – the careful dialogue was just as important and there was definitely a lot of it in this series -- in fact, there were many memorable lines in my opinion that really contributed to the overall effectiveness of the script.

As the article from Nan Fong Daily News stated so well, one of the biggest attractions of this series is the way the producer Tim Gor handles the storyline / script: “the plot is fast-paced and the story-telling effect is strong, which often evokes in audiences the desire to ‘chase’ each episode – each time, he incorporates just enough ‘tension’ in the series to draw audiences in and the more they watch, the more ‘flavorful’ the series gets.” This quote absolutely suits this series almost perfectly, as I can honestly say that the way the script was written and the series was produced, there wasn’t a single boring scene in this series -- from the moment I watched the first episode all the way up through the tragic finale, I was absolutely hooked! Normally, in most series, even the ones I like, I usually will find some scenes boring or draggy – but that was not the case here…every minute of this series was absolutely worthwhile (to the point that I felt like this series flew by way too quickly).

Now of course, the script wasn’t perfect by any means (no script ever is) and this one definitely had some flaws (the ending itself is a bit contentious, but more on that later) – however this script overall was definitely one of the best that I have seen in years! Once again, great job to the writers and to Tim Gor for such a wonderful script / storyline!


CAST / CHARACTERS

This series absolutely proves that you don’t need to have an ‘all star’ cast in a series to make it successful and accepted by audiences! Even though this series did not have any ‘big name’ artists in it (well, what most people today would consider ‘big name’ anyway), the cast was definitely strong in terms of acting, as most of the cast were truly high caliber actors and actresses who were able to carry this series extremely well with their brilliant acting. It’s rare to have a series where almost every artist who participated pulled off their roles extremely well, to the point that it’s actually hard for me to choose a favorite character in this series because all of them did such fine jobs and there were so many of them that I liked, especially on the male side (though if I truly had to choose, my top picks would be Raymond Wong’s Tung Boon Sin, Eric Li’s Law Yat, Jack Wu’s Dr Yuen, and Raymond Cho’s Tsui Ping).

The other thing that I really enjoyed about the casting in the series (and part of what made this series so great in my opinion) was the awesome chemistry that existed consistently throughout the entire series – not just in terms of the romantic pairing (between Raymond and Niki), but also in the other areas as well (such as the relationship between Niki and her family, the friendships between Raymond and Eric as well as between Niki and Jack, etc.). I truly believe that one of the most important things in a series is the chemistry of its cast and this series definitely illustrated that all across the board. One of the reasons why this series moved me so emotionally (in addition to the script and the acting) was because the chemistry came across so genuine that I truly felt a connection to each of the characters and when things happened to them, I truly felt for them.

Anyway, here’s my take on each of the characters and the artists’ performances:

Raymond Wong (Tung Boon Sin / Lee Ho) – Raymond’s character is actually quite complex. His real name is Lee Ho and when he was 8 years old, he was adopted from an orphanage and therefore had to separate from his childhood friend Ngau Nai Tong whom he was very close with and took care of, since she was crippled. Little did he know that the couple who adopted him did so as part of a plot by Dong Kwok Hing (played by Rebecca Chan), who was planning to use the child to deceive her husband Ko Siu Tong (played by Kwok Fung) so that he would stop looking for the illegitimate child he had with another woman. Afterwards, when the plan falls through and Lee Ho is kicked out of the house, Dong Kwok Hing tries to kill him by pushing him into a ravine so that her husband would never find out she was behind the plan. Amazingly, Lee Ho survived and later ends up in Nanjing, where he has to rely on deceiving people and performing magic tricks in order to make a living. He encounters a kind elderly man, Uncle Shek, who is the butler to a wealthy family – Uncle Shek becomes like a father to Lee Ho and when the master of the house Mr. Tung and his young son dies, Lee Ho takes on the identity of the young master Tung Boon Sin. Using this identity, he returns to Guangzhou to take revenge against Dong Kwok Hing and the entire Ko family for what was done to him as a child. As part of his plan to ruin the Ko family, he deceives Ko Yee Kiu (played by Elaine Yiu) into falling in love with him while at the same time, pretends to make a play at her younger sister Yee Nga (played by Katy Kung) so that the sisters would hate each other. Yee Kiu falls into his trap and ends up losing everything she has – plus the rest of the family gets the punishment they deserve as well. During this process, Tung Boon Sin meets Tsui Sum (played by Niki Chow) and decides to use her as part of his revenge plan, since the Ko family was interested in the land that her family’s soy sauce factory was built on – however he never anticipated that he would actually fall in love with her. Later on, he finds out that Tsui Sum is actually the childhood friend that he had been looking for over the past 20 years. Most of the series from this point pretty much revolves around Tung Boon Sin’s revenge against the Ko family as well as his relationship with Tsui Sum. Even though the character of Tung Boon Sin is billed as a ‘bad guy’ of sorts because of what he does to the Ko family (especially the innocent Yee Kiu), he’s actually a good guy at heart, it’s just that his suffering as a child caused him to want revenge.

Raymond Wong did an EXCELLENT job in the role of Tung Boon Sin -- his performance in this series was absolutely amazing and convincing! Tim Gor once said in an interview that Raymond was well-suited for the role of Tung Boon Sin – well, I would actually venture to say that he wasn’t just ‘well-suited’ for the role, he was actually PERFECT for it! It’s obvious that Raymond put a lot of effort into the role, as his acting in the series was so METICULOUS -- from the first time his character appeared in episode 1 all the way to his tragic end in episode 21….every facial expression, hand gesture, even the crying scenes were all absolutely well-executed, to the point that I truly felt he was the one carrying the whole Boon Sin / Tsui Sum storyline and it’s really because of his fine acting that all those scenes between him and Niki were so emotional (for me at least). Also, I never realized it before, but those eyes of his sure can act! The wealth of emotion that Raymond conveyed with his eyes – whether it’s anger, happiness, playfulness, sadness, etc. – was so amazing, it definitely was difficult not to be drawn in to his character in the series. Raymond definitely deserves a lot of credit for making the character of Tung Boon Sin SO MEMORABLE!

Even though Raymond has been in the industry for a long time, I never really knew much about him until he joined TVB a few years ago. I watched most of the TVB series that he was in prior to this one and even though I liked his performances and always viewed him as a solid, talented actor, I didn’t realize his true potential until now. I absolutely loved Raymond in this series – his performance impressed me so much that I’ve become somewhat of a ‘fan’ now and am definitely looking forward to future performances from him!


Niki Chow (Tsui Sum / Ngau Nai Tong) – Niki’s character Tsui Sum is the adopted daughter of the Tsui family (though this fact is not revealed until halfway through the series) who takes on overseeing the family’s soy sauce factory after her (adopted) father dies. She has a strong-willed personality (which makes sense given that she has to oversee an entire factory), but at the same time, she also has a kind and compassionate heart. When Tung Boon Sin first enters her life, she is moved by his story of his childhood friend Ngau Nai Tong, whom he has been waiting for 20 years to be reunited with and even tries to help him find her. Not surprisingly, Tsui Sum is smitten by Boon Sin’s charm and even falls for him after he repeatedly helps bail her family out of trouble. He persuades her to sign over the rights to her family’s soy sauce factory to him, hoping that he would be able to save the factory from demise, but he ends up selling the factory to the Ko family as part of his revenge plot. When Tsui Sum finds out that the person she trusted with all her heart was deceiving her all along, she is devastated -- but with the help of her family and the doctor friend (played by Jack Wu) she meets at the hospital, she eventually overcomes the pain and starts anew rebuilding the soy sauce factory (that is, until she and Boon Sin cross paths again). Without going into detail, of course Tsui Sum and Boon Sin eventually become a couple, but the twists and turns that occur in between is truly what makes their love story so poignant and memorable.

Contrary to popular opinion, I actually think that Niki did a decent job in this series. Sure, her acting wasn’t great by any means, but it wasn’t horrible either – I actually did not get as annoyed with her performance in here as I have been in her past series. The problem I’ve always had with Niki’s acting in the past is that she’s too wooden at times, which makes her acting look forced – plus she has a certain intonation in her voice which sometimes makes it sound like she is reading the dialogue rather than reciting it, which is why her acting always comes across as very unnatural to me. That being said though, I will say that she has improved A LOT in this series because even though she still had the same problems (yes, I was able to detect it right away), it was not as pronounced as in previous series. And I have to admit that Niki does crying scenes way better than most of the actresses at TVB nowadays (it’s kind of ironic that I find Niki’s crying scenes quite natural and convincing, but her acting overall doesn’t have the same effect).

I think that overall, the reason why I found her character tolerable was because of the chemistry that Niki had with Raymond Wong in this series – I actually enjoyed almost every single scene that the 2 of them had together. Perhaps because of Raymond’s great acting in this series, he was able to bring out the best in Niki because I felt that each time the 2 of them interacted in a scene, the emotional impact was very high. I actually think that NIki and Raymond make a great onscreen couple – for me, this was one of the best pairings that I’ve seen in years!


Jack Wu (Yuen Yau Hin) – Jack plays an established young doctor who actually turns out to be the illegitimate son that Ko Siu Tong (Samuel Kwok)had been looking for and eventually found. He’s a very kind-hearted person whose main goal in life is to be a good doctor and help as many people as possible. Though he and his father reunited many years ago, he does not want his father to acknowledge him publicly because he has no interest whatsoever in the Ko family fortune or their business. However, due to various things that happen, he eventually returns to the Ko family and helps out with the business. He meets Tsui Sum (Niki Chow) after she becomes his patient at the hospital where he works and he helps her through the illness that was brought on by Boon Sin’s deception. Even when he returns to help take care of the Ko family business, he still continues his ‘job’ as the Tsui family doctor. The two of them end up developing a life-long friendship. Also, he is pretty much the only good person in the entire Ko family.

Jack Wu has always been one of those actors whom I’ve found to be extremely underrated. He’s quite solid in terms of his acting skills and I’ve always found his performances consistent and likable. In the past, I always felt like Jack was typecasted into those ‘boy next door’ type roles -- perhaps because of his boyish looks -- and never really given a chance to play more mature, ‘professional’ roles much. That’s why I feel that Tim Gor made the right choice to cast Jack in this series as Dr Yuen because the character is quite different from the roles that he used to play in the past and it gives Jack a chance to show his acting skill. Of course, he still needs a little bit of polish in the role, but overall, he put in a fine performance!


Eric Li (Law Yat) – Eric plays Tung Boon Sin’s best friend Law Yat who is also his ‘partner’ in helping him carry out his revenge plans. His role is more behind the scenes, as he does a lot of investigative work for Boon Sin and reports back his findings, then, based on this, the two of them plan out their next moves. The reason why Law Yat is so devoted to helping Boon Sin is because he saved his life a long time ago, so he swore he would follow him from that moment on. The unique thing about Law Yat and Boon Sin’s relationship is the great chemistry between the two – they understand each other so well that oftentimes, they seem to know what the other is thinking and they are able to execute their plans effectively. The bond that these two share is unique and their relationship is similar to that of brothers rather than simply friends, which becomes more obvious as the series progresses (especially in the last few episodes when Boon Sin’s life is in danger). Law Yat has a playful personality, but when it comes to helping Boon Sin execute his plans, he takes his responsibilities very seriously – once the serious discussions are over however, Law Yat never passes up the chance to ‘tease’ Boon Sin about Tsui Sum. I love watching these two interact – the ‘teasing’ scenes between these two are especially hilarious and provide a welcome comedic respite from the otherwise serious / tragic nature of the series.

I was thoroughly impressed with Eric’s performance in this series! His portrayal of Law Yat was so well-executed and natural, I couldn’t help finding his character endearing and charming. Actually, this isn’t the first time that Eric has pulled off an impressive performance, but unfortunately, most of the roles he’s had in the past were insignificant ones where he never really got a chance to showcase his talent, plus he was mostly typecasted into minor villain roles as well (most audiences probably recognize Eric for his villain roles). His role in this particular series was probably one of the first ‘meatier’ non-villain roles he was given and without a doubt, he absolutely excelled in it!

I actually read up a little bit on Eric after watching this series and was surprised to find out that he has actually been in the industry since the mid-90s – he actually graduated from TVB’s Acting Class in 1995 and has been in numerous TVB productions since then (another actor who has toiled at TVB for numerous years without much recognition). Boy, I really hope that TVB gives him more significant supporting roles to play rather than the usual ‘villain x or y’ because it’s obvious that he has good acting skills and great potential (come on now, he’s 100x better than those Mr. HKs that TVB keeps putting into their series!).


Rebecca Chan (Dong Kwok Hing) – Rebecca played the role of the main ‘villanness’ in the series, Dong Kwok Hing. She is the matriarch of the Ko family and has a significant amount of ‘clout’ because she came from a well-to-do family and her husband Ko Siu Tong (Samuel Kwok) was able to build his business based in large part on funds provided by her family. She and Siu Tong have 3 children: oldest son Yee Tai (played by Joel Chan), second daughter Yee Kiu (played by Elaine Yiu), and youngest daughter Yee Nga (played by Katy Kung). The best way to describe Dong Kwok Hing is that she is a ‘control freak’ -- ever since her children were little, she has always ruled them with an iron fist, arranging every aspect of their lives from where/when they should go to school to whom they should marry. Also, she spends a lot of her time trying to make her children seem like ‘model children’ in front of their father by hiding anything bad that they do from him, primarily because she is afraid that if he found out, he would cut the children off from any future inheritance. Dong Kwok Hing is actually a very important character in the series because it’s really because of her scheming and her actions that trigger the whole revenge thing with Tung Boon Sin and pretty much becomes the catalyst for everything else that happens in the series.

Once again, Rebecca did an excellent job as the villain character (seems like she’s been doing more and more villain roles in the past several years). Of course, as a veteran artist, it’s no surprise that her acting would be great – with her level of experience, she has pretty much mastered the skills when it comes to executing her role well. Not sure how many people notice, but whenever Rebecca does villain roles, she does the facial expressions extremely well, especially with the eyes (the way she stares menacingly at people with those piercing eyes can be quite scary). With that said, she is still able to play the benevolent mother roles well too – now that’s versatile acting! It’s interesting how Rebecca has come a long way from TVB fa dan in the 80s to top villainess in the current era. I grew up watching her series and even when she was a fa dan, I always felt that she looked more mature than most of the other fa dans at the time (though she wasn’t really that much older). Anyway, another great performance from a veteran!


Elaine Yiu (Ko Yee Kiu) – Elaine’s character Yee Kiu is the oldest daughter in the Ko family. She’s quite smart, but because of the way she is raised, she is constantly under her mother’s controlling shadow. On the surface, she is obedient to her mother and does whatever she is told to do, even if it means that she must marry a man she doesn’t love in order to further the business relationship between the 2 families – however, inside, she really hates the way her mother tries to control them. Because she wants so desperately to get out from under her mother’s control, she tries to win her dad’s favor by succeeding with the family business, so throughout most of the series, she is battling her older brother Yee Tai to gain the upper hand in the business. She meets Tung Boon Sin during a business transaction and though impressed by him, she doesn’t get involved with him because she is engaged already. However, as the series progresses and she gets more and more frustrated with her mother’s controlling nature (plus her dad doesn’t appreciate her efforts with the family business), she eventually falls for Boon Sin’s charms and starts dating him behind her fiance’s back (which is all part of Boon Sin’s plan, though unbeknownst to her of course). In the end, under Boon Sin’s encouragement, she defies her mother and breaks up with her fiancé (causing him to commit suicide)…after giving up everything she has and running away from home, she discovers that all along the whole thing was a setup – Boon Sin never loved her and was pretty much ‘playing’ her the entire time as part of his revenge plan to destroy the Ko family.

To my surprise, I was actually quite impressed with Elaine’s acting in this series. I haven’t seen a whole lot of her series in the past, but the ones that I have seen I was not impressed with, so I wasn’t really expecting much from her going into this series. I was pleasantly surprised though to see how much more mature her acting has become – with many of the emotional scenes involving herself and Raymond as well as the ‘showdown’ scenes between her and Rebecca, she was able to deliver consistently. In fact, in that one episode especially where Yee Kiu defies her mother and runs away from home, only to find the letter that Boon Seen leaves for her telling her the whole thing was a setup – all of the scenes were done so well by Elaine that I truly felt sorry for her character...when she read the letter, I could sense her pain! Also, that last scene in the finale where her character Yee Kiu seeks out Raymond’s character Boon Seen at the office and stabs him was actually quite well-acted. Great improvement for Elaine!


Raymond Cho (Tsui Ping) -- Raymond Cho plays Tsui Sum (Niki)’s older brother Tsui Ping. He is a very honest and upright person who is not good at making decisions and doesn’t really have much of an opinion on anything, however, he has a heart of gold. Even though he is the oldest son, he knows that with his somewhat shy personality, he’s not suited to manage the family’s soy sauce factory, so he’s perfectly fine with his sister overseeing it. He prefers to live a simple and happy life and let the other women in his life (his wife, sister, and mother) make all the decisions for him – in a sense, he has a ‘happy-go-luck’ type personality. One of Tsui Ping’s best qualities is his unwavering devotion to his family, especially to his little sister Tsui Sum – other than his mother, he is the only one who knows Tsui Sum’s true identity, but that doesn’t prevent him from treating her as his biological sister. The way he loves his sister so much and tries to protect her at all costs is truly very touching and sweet!

Ray Cho never fails to impress me with his acting! No matter what type of role he gets – whether serious, comedic, villain, etc. – he always handles the role extremely well. The character of Tsui Ping may not be a major character in the series and compared to the others, he may not have as much screentime, but his role was still very endearing and enjoyable. I loved all those scenes he had with Niki where the two of them would have their heart-to-heart brother/sister talks as well as those scenes where he would be so concerned for his sister’s well-being that he would be on the verge of tears (moved me to tears as well). Ray’s character (as well as his performance) was definitely among one of my favorites!


Additional Cast:

Claire Yiu (Tsui Ping’s wife Wan Yau) – As Tsui Ping’s wife, she is loud and bossy (in a nice way) with a blunt personality and a bit nosy too, but underneath all that, she actually has a good heart. In fact, her character was quite funny and enjoyable in this series. I especially loved her interaction with her ‘husband’ in the series, Ray Cho – they sure make a compatible, cute couple in my opinion…LOL!

Ching Hor Wai (Mrs. Tsui) – Her character is pretty much the typical ‘benevolent mother’ role, except that she ends up having an illness similar to Alzheimers and slowly starts to lose her memory. Even though her role can be considered minor in comparisons to the others (I think she probably has the least amount of screentime), her character is critical in being the one who knows the background of Tsui Sum’s childhood and eventually revealing those details to Boon Sin. Ching Hor Wai gives her usual steady performance in here.

Katy Kung (Ko Yee Nga) – Katy plays the youngest of the Ko daughters and is actually the one who deserves most to meet a miserable fate in my opinion. Her character is bxxchy and incorrigible – at home, she pretends to be a good girl to win her parents favor, but outside, she shows her true colors as a promiscuous teenager who smokes and has a nasty, arrogant temper. Knowing her personality and temper, Boon Sin purposefully leads her into thinking that he likes her when he actually doesn’t and this causes her to be at odds with her sister Yee Kiu. Later on, when she finds out that Boon Sin’s true love is actually Tsui Sum, Yee Nga gets jealous and ends up pushing her down a cliff – the incident causes Tsui Sum to once again become crippled. Obviously I disliked Katy’s character – she was just way too annoying and fake (and it’s unfortunate that she ended up getting off scott-free thanks to her mother, continuing to live her wild life in another city)!

Joel Chan (Ko Yee Tai) – Joel actually portrayed his role quite well in this series, but since I’ve never really been fond of him as an actor, I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to him in here. Besides, his character had more of a significance in the first few episodes of the series during the whole battle over the soy sauce factory and stuff –later on, he pretty much just follows his mother around and does whatever she tells him to do.

Samuel Kwok (Ko Siu Tong) – I’m actually kind of disappointed that Kwok Fung didn’t have a more significant role in this series, especially given that he is the patriarch of the Ko family. I sort of felt like all he did pretty much was just appear every so often to chide his children and his wife whenever something bad happened in his family. The two scenes where he had the most significance were in the announcement of Yuen Yau Hin as his son and also when he officially disowns his oldest son and sends his wife away after he discovers the nasty things that they did. For such a great veteran actor, too bad his role was less significant.

Tracy Ip (Ko Yee Tai’s wife Bak Wai) – Her performance is probably the only one that I really didn’t like -- her acting came across too robotic and fake to me and it seemed that she had difficulty saying her lines (perhaps because of her slight accent?). Anyway, since her role was relatively minor and didn’t appear a whole lot, I was ok with sitting through it.

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THE ENDING

I normally don’t like to go into too much detail with the ending, but with this series, since the ending was a bit contentious, I figured it’s important to talk about. (The sentiment from the general public seems to be that the overall series was great, but the ending was bad because it was so tragic -- specifically referring to the part where Tung Boon Sin dies tragically and Tsui Sum doesn’t find out until years later).

Indeed, the ending truly was agonizing and absolutely heartwrenching! Episode 20 actually ended very sweetly (and close to the ‘happily ever after’ ending that most of us wanted), but then episode 21 came along and it ended up being so tragic that part of me really wanted to pretend episode 21 didn’t exist (though of course that’s not possible because that’s the critical episode that ties up all the loose ends).

Personally, I had mixed feelings about the ending – on the one hand, I could understand the purpose of making the ending tragic so that it’s more memorable (which the series definitely did), but on the other hand, I could also see how the writers could have written the ending differently, in a way that would have been more satisfying to the audiences (if not ‘happily ever after’, then even a semi-tragic one would have sufficed for me – especially since that’s the type of ending I had in mind anyway).
I actually don’t think that I would have a problem with the tragic ending (the part where Boon Sin dies) itself if that entire segment had been handled better -- because the way it was portrayed in the finale really did not make a whole lot of sense from a logical standpoint (plus the ‘tortuous’ way in which that part was portrayed – the whole ‘tripping through the streets with blood gushing out of wound’ thing -- was really unnecessary in my opinion).

Anyway…as much as I didn’t want to see the series end the way it did, I will admit that it definitely upped the emotional factor and made the series all the more poignant and memorable!


CONCLUDING THOUGHTS:

Overall, “Bottled Passion” was an excellent series! Even though the series is technically a romantic love story at its core, there’s actually a good mix of other things in there that make the series well-balanced enough for those who may want to watch this but are not into romantic dramas. I personally enjoyed this series tremendously and for me – taking all things into consideration such as script / storyline, cast, acting, etc. -- it’s truly the Best Series of the year (officially now, since 2011 is over already).

This is definitely a series worth watching (I’m already planning to rewatch it soon, which is rare for me) for all the reasons stated above (plus at 21 episodes, it’s short enough so as not to be draggy). Now of course, if you’re the type of person who doesn’t like watching ‘tearjerkers’ at all (it’s pretty much a guarantee that this series will evoke tears at one point or another), then yes, perhaps reconsider…but if you want to see how a truly high quality, well-written, well-acted, and well-produced looks like, then this series is definitely the one to choose!

10 comments:

  1. Yay!! Your review is so long detailed, I love it! I'll read and reply in detail tomorrow. First a short reply.

    The entire drama, the plot, the chemistry between the characters, most of the performances, the setting, the genre (I have started to become fan of pre-modern dramas for unknown reason), everything is well-conducted (or whatever you call it). I like Tim Gor's dramas, which all have a strong story as base. The storyline is the most important to me, it can ruin an entire drama if not written well. The performances of the cast is second. Horrible acting can demotivate me to continue watch a drama. I think this drama has all ingredients and that's why it succeeds in attracting me to 追 this drama.

    I have to agree with most of the people that the ending was a kind of letdown. It's not because I want to have a 'happy ending' for Niki and Raymond, like in fairytales. "The Prince and The Princess Live Happily Ever After". That's too cliché and absolutely not realistic. In real life, not all bad guys and villains (i.e. Rebecca, Joel) get karma for their deeds, and not all good people have a happy ending. There's no such thing. Like you, I wouldn't have any problem with a tragic ending, it's more realistic and makes it more memorable.
    But.... if the scriptwriters want to kill either Tung Bun Sin or Tsui Sum, then go ahead, but please make the death inevitably. Tung Bun Sin not going to hospital, but choosing to bleed to death somewhere at sea is just the same as suicide. His death is so unnecessary and stupid. The scriptwriters suddenly turn Tung Bun Sin, the most intelligent guy in the entire drama with his well-thought revenge plans, into some stupid, irrational person. That's just so wrong. Plus, the streets being empty the entire day for no reason? There are just too many illogical points!

    Some options I have for the scriptwriters: Yee Kiu stabs Bun Sin. He gets out of the office and goes into his car, while driving to the hospital, his car breaks down for whatever reason and he can't get the doors open. Locked in there for a few hours, he eventually dies. When people find his car, and succeed into getting it open, they try to reanimate him but to no avail.
    Lol. My fantasy has limits, but this makes more sense.

    Btw, I liked Tim Gor's A Fistful of Stances too, which sadly got low ratings (and a high finale ratings, similar to Bottled Passion).

    Anyways my short reply turns to be pretty long =/ Like usual, I can't stop typing.

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  2. @ llwy12 - I seriously didn't want to watch this series but now you make me want to watch it. NOT because I had something against Tim Sor because I quite like him and his works. Yet the same as you, I was hesitant because Of Nikki. Apparently, I'm not a fan. Though I do enjoy watching Raymond Wong (mostly recently though I didn't have a problem with him in the past years that he wasn't at TVB). I think what made this series good was not going the typical way of allowing the main guy to be SO GOOD/KIND-HEARTED that he seems so dumb. It's typical in the essence that good girl fall for bad guy (or so it seems), but I guess the rest of the plot made up for it. OR so it seemed from your descriptions.

    And oh yeah, how could I forgot Raymond Cho? So he's in all the series that I want to skip? JUST KIDDINg, but yeah...no wonder I missed him.

    Talking about Eric Li though, I can't believe you don't know he has been around ages. I didn't know he was in the 'TVB Acting Class' before, I saw him in lots of series before. What happened to paying attention to side characters too? *glares at you* JUST KIDDING.... But I'm sure he did a good job since I always found him convincing. Is this one of the 'meaty' roles since 'Catch Me Now'?

    Oh yeah, finally a female character as the bad person. That hadn't happen in a long time. If you know what I mean. I'm not counting those psychos from police dramas eitehr. BUT like the 'main villian'.

    Most people probably do not agree with me, but I always thought Elaine has potential. YET she lacks training so if she learns from the proper master, she could actaully be impressive.

    Back-tracking a bit, when you said stuffs about 'crying', tell half of those TVB lots go take lessons from those Taiwanese ones. LOL! Even if the series isn't good, most of them are very good at crying! LOL! Kidding again, but yeah...

    I was going to ask about Ray's screen time, but you just mentioned it so don't have to ask BUT awwwww....lowering chances of watching, LOL!

    Letting Yee Nga getting off scott-free? NOT cool....lowering chance to watch again....even lower than before. I'm a detail person SO I would be sore about it. NOT like those things don't happen, especially around that time YET I can't tolerate that.

    I swear, some of the cast in here, especially Elaine and Samuel Kwok Fung that reminds me of Safe Guards. LOL! AND the whole battle with family fighting over fortune again. Though that's just a side story for the Ko Family.

    At least Tsui Sum found out Tung Boon Sin is dead. I meant at least she had some sort of closure. Unlike some other series that got me really pissed off with people not knowing or misunderstood teh whole thing. On the top of my head there's 'Phoenix Rising' with Jack not knowing Leila was dead already AND not because she didn't want to show up. AND 'Blood of Good and Evil' with what happened to Jia Hao. OFF-TOPIC, but just giving examples.

    Anyway, thanks a lot for the thorough review! Fun to read BUT must have been a lot of work for you.

    @Lizzy - Can't help but type to you too. I like the ending you crafted! Since after you provided more details of the ending, it seemed too unreasonable.

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  3. @Lizzy: LOL…yay, long reply! Love long replies since they spur discussion…haha!

    First of all, I’ll reply to your comments separately, as I read something about the ending today that I wanted to share. Not sure if you saw the Weibo post I forwarded earlier today. Basically, someone (a netizen I presume) figured out the significance of the ending to BP and wrote it on her Weibo – Raymond Wong saw it and forwarded on his Weibo, with the comment: 完全正確! Thx! [“completely correct”]….so I guess this is the closest ‘explanation’ that we have so far about why Raymond’s character died the way he did? Anyway, here’s the translation from Weibo:
    Basically, Tung Boon Sin does not let Dr Yuen take him to the hospital because he already knows that he wouldn't be able to survive and doesn't want Tsui Sum to watch him die. In the end, he chooses to go off and die by himself because he wants to leave hope for Tsui Sum that there are miracles in this world. By still holding onto the possibility that Tung Boon Sin might have survived and may still return someday, this keeps her going and doesn't make situation completely hopeless. So even in death, Tung Boon Sin was still looking out for Ngau Nai Tong (Milk Candy).

    To be honest, after reading this, the ending does make a little more sense, but that still doesn’t explain the whole ‘tripping through the streets with blood gushing from his wound’ thing….so pretty much the illogicalness of the ending is still there in my opinion…

    If you ask me, I actually disagree with the particular interpretation that the netizen had above. The version that makes the most sense to me (given what happened during that segment) goes something like this: when Boon Sin got stabbed and told that guy in the street to go save Elaine, he left because he wanted to go see Ngau Nai Tong (which explains why he said "Ngau Nai Tong is waiting for me at home") -- I truly believe that at that time, he was not thinking about whether he was going to die or not, he just wanted to go see the woman he loved. So in that sense, he WAS making an effort to go see her....but of course, due to his injury and the pain, he wouldn't be able to walk properly, hence staggering through the streets....unfortunately, because he was bleeding so much from his wound, he didn't make it very far and probably fainted (remember that when Dr Yuen found him, it was already night time and Boon Seen was just lying there -- who knows how long he had been there). The moment that Dr Yuen found Boon Seen was probably the moment he realized that he was not going to survive, so that's when he decides that he doesn't want Tsui Sum to go through the pain of seeing him die in front of her eyes -- so after Dr Yuen leaves to go call a car, Boon Sin leaves to go die on his own. As for the miracles thing, I actually think that was a reference to what Tsui Sum found in the letter -- that Boon Sin wanted to save the miracles for her (being able to have her leg healed)....so he would rather sacrifice the chance of himself being saved if it meant she could be healed....

    What are your thoughts?

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  4. @Lizzy: Ok, now for the ‘official’ reply to your comments…LOL..

    Definitely agree with you regarding all the ‘elements’ that made BP such a great series (despite the ‘contentiousness’ of the ending). I personally can’t stand crappy acting and when the storyline / script isn’t any good either, then that’s just a recipe for disaster right there….that’s why I can’t stand most of TVB’s series lately because many of them fall into the ‘bad script / bad acting’ category.

    I actually like your version of the ending better because it makes more sense (for me, things have to make sense…lol).

    For me, if we were to go with the tragic ending (meaning that one of them dies and they can’t be together), I would have preferred something to the effect of Boon Sin dying in Tsui Sum’s arms or something like that…sure, it would be heartbreaking for her (and probably him too), but at least there’s closure….plus they would still be able to get the ‘tragic / memorable’ effect without all the illogical stuff.

    The more I think about it, maybe I should write my own ending, since I pretty much already had 3 different endings in mind anyway (a ‘happily ever after’ one, a semi-tragic one, and a tragic one)…hmmm…never mind…with the little time that I already have, it would probably take me years to finish…LOL!

    I liked AFOS as well – though not as much as BP of course. In fact, I like a lot of Tim Gor’s series (except for those dreaded 90s Jin Yong remakes of course…well, I did like 2 of the remakes, but that was mostly because of the superb acting from the cast)…most of the other series that I like of his are from the 80s.

    Anyway, looking forward to your additional comments…LOL…

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  5. @DTLCT: Hey there! Thanks for commenting! Here's part 1 of my response (sorry...had to separate into 2 parts cuz damn Blogger has a limitation on number of characters....)

    Didn't know if you would be interested in this series at first cuz I know you're not into the romantic drama stuff -- but I feel that this one balances things out pretty well in that it's not all about romance....there's actually a strong plot and enough action to keep audiences engaged. Plus there are some cast members I know you like, so that's another advantage? Well, that's one of the reasons why I try to make my reviews so detailed -- so that people who may not have thought about watching before may decide that perhaps it's worth their time? I know I'm like that when it comes to series -- unlike most people who don't like reading spoilers and episode summaries, I like to read everything I can get my hands on related to the series because that helps me determine whether I should watch or not (seeing how little time I have already, I wouldn't want to waste my time on worthless junk...LOL)!

    Anyway....yea, the plot wasn't exactly typical, but it wasn't completely unique either. Either way, I feel that the method in which the story is told is quite effective and when you add the strong cast and great acting to it, definitely makes it one of those "hard to forget", "once in a blue moon" good series.

    With regard to the cast, Raymond Wong's performance was definitely stellar! Unlike you, I wasn't too familiar with Raymond prior to him joining TVB (obviously I didn't follow ATV as closely as I did TVB, so not as familiar with some of the artists' performances over there -- but hey, that could change in the coming year, seeing how I'm finding fewer and fewer TVB series "watchable" nowadays -- might just go back and dig up some old ATV dramas to watch...lol). Anyway, I feel that Raymond's performance alone already makes this series worth watching....then when you add the rest of the cast and the storyline to it, you get an awesome combination!

    Haha...yea, I sort of had the same sentiment about Ray Cho -- that he's been in alot of series that I don't care to watch either (but then again, I could probably say that about alot of artists I like at TVB)...glad that he was in this one though because he did great in here, plus I happened to love the series. Oh, and I LOVED his chemistry with Claire -- it was so adorably cute (not in the cheesy way...haha)....now it makes more sense why I saw all that friendly banter between them on Weibo awhile back ago -- they were probably filming this series around that time and had become good friends. Btw, speaking of Claire -- did you know that she is pregnant again? (she was the TVB artist that Virginia Lok had referred to in an interview back when the Media was asking her about whether Gigi Lai was pregnant). Claire said that BP is the last series she made prior to her pregnancy -- so I guess this means that we won't be seeing her in series for awhile? Bummer...I actually like her, it's just that she gets sucky roles most of the time (though she was great in this particular series!).

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  6. @DTLCT: Part 2.....

    LOL...actually, I was sort of surprised too that I didn't know as much about Eric Li as I should have...I guess back in the mid-90s, it was easier not to pay attention to some of the side characters (and he truly did play alot of "side" characters -- the bordering on "insignificant" types of characters) because there still alot of great artists that overshadowed and took up alot of the attention...LOL...but in recent years, since most of the series sucked and I didn't like the main leads in most of them, I started paying alot more attention to the 'background' people (though I will admit that even then, not too many of Eric's roles stood out -- the only two that I remember right now off the top of my head that fall into the 'memorable' category were his roles in D.I.E and also War and Destiny). Plus I'm more used to seeing him host (since that's how I first knew him -- as host of TVB's entertainment news programs and interview shows). But yea, I definitely agree that he is very convincing as an actor -- really hope to see more of him in series!

    Hmmm, now that you mention it, there really aren't that many female 'main' villains in series nowadays....maybe that's because TVB is already lacking in solid actresses and fa dans nowadays, so they can't afford to 'give up' the actresses to do evil roles? Don't know....but yea, it's definitely refreshing to see a female be the main villain for once....

    To be honest, I was one of those who was never really keen on Elaine (which I guess is obvious from my reviews and such), but it could be that I just happened to pick the wrong series of hers to watch...though another part of me feels that she just was never given the right opportunities at TVB. Maybe it's just me, but I felt like TVB pretty much gave up on her after all the poor reviews for her performance in "Safeguards" -- which once again proves that TVB is not good at honing talent because they give up on someone who has potential after just 1 series (plus that was her first series, right?), yet they keep putting people with no talent in series after series after series. I would rather they invest more time in cultivating Elaine's talents rather than spending all that time on those stupid pageant winners who can't even speak Cantonese properly to begin with (sorry for being harsh, but the overload of pageant winners in series has really started to annoy me)....

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  7. @DTLCT: Part 3....(final)

    Part 3....

    Don't be too worried about Ray's screentime....it might not be alot compared to the others, but he's in there enough that it's hard not to notice him -- especially in the first 3rd and last 3rd of the series....

    In terms of Yee Nga -- yea, I think that was one of the few parts of the storyline that I had a problem with (in addition to the thing about the ending)....she was such a bxxch! And that last scene that they showed of her in the finale didn't help things either (she's living the good life and doesn't even give a damn when she reads in the newspaper that her sister had committed suicide and the guy she supposedly liked was injured and missing) -- I think it made me even more pissed off watching that scene actually....they should have just taken that scene out to be honest cuz I really don't think it served a purpose except for to anger the audiences.

    Haha...I'm not surprised that the cast would remind you of Safeguards cuz Tim Gor likes to use alot of the same artists in his series....but I'm ok with that, since he does have an eye for talent (thinking of his past series, even if I don't like the series all that much, I usually like the cast....)

    OMG, don't get me started on that whole 'lack of closure' thing...I'm still pissed off at TVB for the amount of times they pull that crap...the 2 you cited are classic examples of it! To be honest, after reading the episode summary for the finale, I seriously was thinking that was the direction this series was heading in as well (the whole 'not knowing' thing)....luckily there were those last scenes in the end where Tsui Sum realizes that Tung Boon Sin truly died and won't come back, otherwise, I would probably have been even more ticked off with the ending (seeing all the backlash the series got already with the ending, I don't think it needs anymore...lol...)

    Sorry for the long response....I started typing and next thing I know, I already had a page of comments....hahaha....

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  8. @llwy12 - LOL! Two parts? I'm honored! NO wait...I scrolled down. 3 parts....GOSH, feeling even more special, LOL!

    Yeah, I'm a sucker for watching Ray Cho but I can't help but skip some stuffs last year (2011). So with this, I might give it a try - for him.

    Regarding Claire. I must agree. I like her since the ATV days and watching her in 'Ten Tigers of Guangdong' YET she does end up getting sucky roles most of the time since joining TVB. (Not surprised, lol.)

    And talking about Ray Cho and Claire - remember how he killed her in the other one? (Yeah, that disaster called ' Threshold of a Personna' - LOL!) So it would be interesting to see them as husband and wife, LOL! I remember how Roger and Ray kept talking about their kids on set at that time and Claire got influenced by them.

    OFF-TOPIC, but yeah...got carried away. Sorry, lol. So steering back, lol.

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  9. @llwy12 - Part 2 (They prompted me too! WAH! Is this a new feature?)

    I actually like romantic ones, but I rather prefer those with a mix of romance rather than just romance head on, if you know what I mean. LOL! So with this element of revenge plot and all and the pre-modern theme, it is indeed intriguing. Considering how I like most of the pre-modern ones that TVB made thus far (but crediting the awesome team more than TVB, lol).

    Eric Li - The 'D.I.E.' installments with him being the double trouble? (Twins, lol) Yeah, that was creepy all right. He had a major role in 'Catch Me Now' as well with being one of the guys part of Damian's team. He was paired up with Celine Ma in that one. They were a funny couple though since he had some car shop - and they kept bickering instead of taking care of the shop business. (Poor those customers.) But I think what I like the most about him was how he kept giving consistent performances regardless how little his screen time was at times. I think that's what good acting is about, NOT just trying harder because one has a meatier role. But I do get it with how there are too many people to keep track of to pay attention to all. Sometimes it took me several more re-watches later to even see some artists from the past - if I hadn't paid attention like the first or second time around.

    Elaine Yiu - That wasn't her first series. Well, it could count as first that she had a major lead role. But it wasn't her first. Her first one was 'Hearts of Fencing'. For a newcomer at that time, I didn't think she was terrible because maybe it was just one of those teen/growing up themes. SO the pressure wasn't so high. Not to mention how the rest of the cast carried the weight with her (like around 5 or 6 other people?) I didn't watch 'Sunshine Heartbeat' YET since she was just guest star in there or something since they were moving on to different theme. I didn't watch 'To Catch the Uncatchable' either. BUT I did watch 'Revolving Doors of Vengeance' and 'Always Ready'. I thought that was interesting with 'Revolving Doors' 'cause she took on a semi-villain role, considering her manipulative character in there. It wasn't the best but I thought it was convincing enough for me with her childish fighting over Ron's character, etc. But I couldn't for the life of me remember who she was in 'Always Ready'. Interestingly, after her unsuccessful role in Safeguards, she later reunited with Steven in 'The Gentle Crackdown II', but was pairing up with Johnson Lee. I felt she had improved again. Which proved your point since she seemed to improve slowly - rather than NOT at all, lol. But it was like she had to do it alone or something since at times she would take a step back and then forth and back again. It happens a lot with the new batch of artists nowadays since they are practically grasping at straws OR something. I know they didn't have to do it, but I'm just giving an example of how there were obvious traces of how TVB couldn't even find time to train them properly OR want to put out some effort (nowadays since they did do away with 'acting classes') but wants to reap. AND yes, your point with how they kept pushing new ones in our faces. I don't mind new ones, but please train them SO we wouldn't have to wait for 5 years plus for them to finally show some source of improvements. Sometimes we see one in all of those say 10 has great potential BUT other times, we already give up. The problem is they need to spread the cast out too since they kept focusing on a group and then the rest gets neglected. Sometimes it's not about acting either, BUT more like we're fed up with seeing them in series so we just give up as well. But for some reason, TVB kept thinking 'new' is better when we complain about the 'old' so out went the old and in with the new. OY!

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  10. @llwy12 - Part 3

    Back to the plot again, LOL! Sorry, kept getting carried away.

    Yee Nga - I'm not sure how I would react when I see that scene. But I'm sure my mom would want to throw something at the screen. (We need a new TV? LOL!) I think it was showing how not all things get resolved in the end and YES, like lizzy said, not everyone gets punished in the world we all live in. SO...YET it seemed so frustrating.

    No problems with long responses. Just felt honored that you typed so much for me. LOL! AND I typed so little. But I just agreed with most of what you said so didn't reply as much (or want to get anymore repetitive than already did).

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