aka 不扣鈕的女孩 aka Bu kou niu de nu hai
Written by Lam Chiu-Wing
Directed by Taylor Wong Tai-Loi
Girls Unbutton is a story about a woman’s search for love. Along the way she gets naked a lot, as do her friends, so it’s all good! A lot of people now compare it to Sex and the City, but Girls Unbutton came out years before that series. It’s spiritual predecessors are those European erotic journey films where they are narrated by the young lady who has a string of lovers until she finds the one that is best. There was a whole host of these in the 70s, though the genre seemed to peter out in the 80s. Many also featured internal dialogue in the form of diaries (as some were based on actual books!), and the diary aspect is carried over for Girls Unbutton. But not entirely, Jenny has two friends with ideas of their own about love and men, thus giving us external dialogue and conflict and nudity.
Despite the fact it appears to be nothing more than sleazy Category III that hastily straightened up the room before mom barged in, Girls Unbutton actually has seeds of an idea of a better film. It almost does a good job looking into the ins and out of relationships, of a woman’s search for love. But Jenny is thrust into various ridiculous scenarios that quickly take the winds out of the sails for a serious and good movie. Girls Unbutton is its own worst enemy. But also its greatest strength. Just the very fact the producers tried to do something makes it a cut above a lot of the slop. And Girls Unbutton is entertaining.
This is a Loletta Lee vehicle, so the plot revolves around her as our heroine Jenny. Jenny has a busy love life, but each relationship is not right for her. Will she ever find true love? Is there a Mr. Right? Will she and her friends be wearing any clothes in the next scene? We shall find out! This was the last film directed by Taylor Wong Tai-Loi, the talented director and fan of old school Cantonese flicks, which he showed his love with in Buddha’s Palm (1982) and Kung Fu Vs. Acrobatic (1990).
Jenny starts the movie making dinner for yer current boyfriend Dick. Jenny is a klutz and food is everywhere, so Dick slips on some and is injured. Spaghetti flies everywhere, but soon they are making love in Ragu sauce. While they are doing the deed Dick manages to bang his head repeatedly. Banging your head while getting it on is a recurring theme in this film, the motif. Dick later finds out the food was delivered (thanks to the delivery man returning to look for his bosses missing dentures!) and breaks up with Jenny for lying to him. So she kicks him out while he’s still naked! He doesn’t even have a Ragu jar to cover himself up with.
Beach time! Jenny’s two friends Kate and “Jenny’s Friend Number Two” (a character so important she never gets a name!) change for the beach in a changing station, but immediately begin grabbing at each others breasts as they get naked. They say such statements as “Don’t, you may bust my boyfriend’s nursing bottle!” In case you are wondering, real women totally do this in real life. Trust me. They’re also being peeped on by the wily Boss Li, who is beaten for his perversion. The beach is controlled by Triads working under Lung Mao, who charge $10 to change, $10 to use the beach, $10 for everything. Jenny refuses to pay the beach fee and runs into her two friends. The three girls go floating in the ocean on a raft, but their raft is seized by Lung Mao’s men, who demand $50 a person for swimming. The girls are fed up and decide to go find Lung Mao to yell at him. Lung Mao is painting Chinese characters and his goons stop the girls from getting too close, so Jenny steals his bike. He catches her and takes her for a beer to explain that he and his men collect fees to pay for protection of the neighborhood as the cops refuse to help. Lung Mao says he won’t hurt Jenny or her friends if she does one thing: teach him to swim!
Later, Jenny is in the bathtub reflecting on how nice Lung Mao is and how she’s now in love with him. So they go on a date (along with her two friends and their boyfriends Fei and Kei.) Lung Mao also is dealing with the men of the Red Pig Clan, who have come to talk terms wanting more territory. Lung Mao puts the moves on Jenny while outside the gang negotiations break down and they begin to fight. The Red Pig Clan men win (and they are NOT wearing red or even shirts!) and storm the restaurant, so Lung escapes with Jenny down an alley that is dripping water from somewhere. In this dank, gross place, they make passionate love. Lung Mao finishes just as one of his men crawls up saying everyone is dead. Lung Mao can’t just stand by and do nothing (he can stand by and have sex, but not nothing) and goes to fight the Red Pig Clan. In his underwear. With only a sword. And he kills all of them! But he also dies, so now Jenny is single again. This happens so often…
Jenny is back at her place moping as her two friends try to cheer her up. Their chat turns into an argument over Miss Asia vs. Miss Hong Kong (and ATV vs. TVB by extension) while Jenny jokingly slanders them for sleeping with various pageant judges. This leads to a play fight across the apartment that results in Jenny getting locked out of her own apartment and the two friends inviting their boyfriends over for sex. The sex scenes are the humorous kind, with one pair banging their heads repeatedly (told you it was a motif!) and deciding to used sports helmets for protection, while the other group head for the swimming pool where lobsters and starfish join in on the fun, in a way not fun for that pair. Don’t ask why lobsters and starfish are in a swimming pool. Just don’t.
Jenny walks along the streets dejected, probably because her friends are some sort of insane sex freaks and she’s a solo freak. Her loneliness ends when a demonstration practically runs her over. She falls but is caught by Pong Kwong-Yim, who makes sure she is okay as well as letting her know her watch is broken and counterfeit, so he gives her his watch. Pong is trying to keep the demonstration calm, but is pelted with water, urine, and finally feces. Don’t worry, as each time one of Pong’s subordinates takes the brunt of the blasts. Pong is about to be hit with acid, but Jenny saves him by spilling the acid, and both she and Pong run as the crowd gets enraged.
DIARY TIME! Jenny makes a diary entry, while fully nude of course. It is now a year later, and Pong has had three promotions while Jenny is his personal assistant. Plus he just divorced his wife. They have a candlelight dinner in his office, but Jenny is worried he will drop her like he dropped his wife. Maybe you should have thought of that in the prior year when he wasn’t divorcing his wife!!! He assures her that won’t happen, while we notice something odd: a woman in white clothes and white makeup is holding up a glass plate pretending to be a table. That must be some weird hobby or something. Actually, it is Pong’s wife, which we find out when Jenny notices her while they are getting it on like Donkey Kong (aka jumping over barrels while engaging in intercourse.) Pong’s wife tells Jenny she will be in the same position soon enough, following the cheating Pong around. Pong’s wife then calls the Party Director (political party, not fight for your right to party party) and the Party Director says they need a family man and not some guy who moves from wife to wife like squares on a Monopoly board. Take that, Newt Gingrich! So Jenny gets dropped.
DIARY TIME! Jenny is on the beach tossing rocks, while a new guy named Ho is on the phone, threatening to kill himself if he can’t get the operator to connect him to his ex-girlfriend. Codependent much? He fills a bad tied to him with rocks and hangs a big hunk of meat around himself (I guess for sharks or something…) but a rock thrown by Jenny startles him and he falls into the ocean. Jenny ends up saving him despite his objections, only because she’s worried she’ll be charged with killing him if he dies.
DIARY TIME! Naked again, Jenny says she is wondering why the ordinary Ho is interesting to her while she usually only dates powerful men like Pong and Lung. Ho takes Jenny to a snake wine house (snakes preserved in wine) which actually exist in case you ever need to drink some snake wine in China. Snake gall bladder is good for you, snake skin heals wounds, snake blood is good for your blood, and none of that pesky FDA testing! Ex-boyfriend Dick is also there with his new girlfriend, but he tells Jenny he is still in love with her and will do anything for her. So Jenny tosses her handbag into a pit of poisonous snakes and asks him to retrieve it. Even Dick’s new girlfriend says he should do it just to show his strength, but he refuses. Dick is true to his name. Ho gets the bag back, thus he is NOT true to his name! After getting drunk, Ho and Jenny walk to his place, which is a boat that he takes care of for the owners. He’s like Crockett except no pet alligator or Tubbs.
Ho’s attempts to get it on Love Boat-style are stymied by the appearance of his sister, who sneaks on board thinking the owner is there with a bimbo that she will report to his wife. Ho’s sister proves to be the kind of girl who is a mega-klutz that also causes her clothes to fall off each time she falls down. The kind of girl that doesn’t exist in real life but we all wish did. Ho seems less than bothered when his butt-naked sister barges in on him and Jenny, but Jenny takes off. Later, Jenny tells her friends she wants men in the palm of her hand (like she has Ho now) but the friends want Jenny to be a strong woman in love and to drop him because she can. Ho is ready to kill himself again because he thinks he failed with Jenny (and can’t seem to think that maybe his naked sister interrupting them was something that caused her to get freaked out instead.) Ho leaves a cake with a chocolate hand with a ring on at Jenny’s door, but Jenny’s friends tear up the letter he left with it so Jenny can’t read it. When Ho calls, Jenny’s Friend Number Two answers and pretends to be Jenny, telling Ho that she has sex many times a month and if they run into each other again he should just say hello and nothing else. Jenny’s friends suck.
Men dressed in black burst into Jenny’s apartment, grab her, and force her to the balcony. No, the film didn’t suddenly become an entry in the Raped by an Angel series, Pong and Pong’s wife enter, Pong has resigned, and Pong’s wife is taking over as the politician. Plus, they are divorcing. Pong is leaving everything for Jenny, and all of this is brought up in a spontaneous news conference (and Ho witnesses it from the street.) Pong throws away his phone, orders his fancy car destroyed, throws away money and sings to Jenny so she’ll marry him. The lyrics to his song go “You look like an apple, I want to eat an apple. Momma Mia!” His singing is so bad Jenny jumps off the balcony. I hear ya, sister! Pong drives away from the conference with Jenny in his (smashed up) car, while Jenny tries to escape. Ho tries to pursue on his bike, but Jenny’s jerk friends grab him to stop him. Ho goes to his boat to mope while his sister wears an outfit so skimpy it’s illegal on most beaches, most states, and most countries. It is something you definitely don’t want to see your sister wearing in front of you, unless you are a Jerry Springer guest.
Jenny is back at her place in the backyard with her two friends, NAKED!!! I’m sure some stuff happens here, but I’m just paying attention to the naked girls. Jenny has tickets to Hawaii from Pong, but her friends tell her to return to Hong Kong as soon as she arrives there, which makes her a “strong woman in love.” Why Jenny still listens to these girls I’ll never understand, especially since they seem to be in exclusive relationships with their boyfriends and aren’t some sort of Asian Playa Girls. Ho’s Sister Kate leaps over the fence and falls into the pool, causing the naked girls to run over and help her. Kate begs Jenny to get back with Ho, and Jenny says she will, over Fei Fei Fei’s objections. Jenny can’t find Ho while Pong advertises on TV for Jenny.
DIARY TIME! Jenny says every guy gives her a boat, but it doesn’t matter because she is seasick. This is like a metaphor or something. Ho hasn’t given her a boat yet, but will he? He sneaks into her place with a toy boat as the movie becomes a music video. Jenny is in the bath as the song plays, while Ho tries to sneak around and put the toy boat in, but as Jenny goes to investigate the noise he ends up destroying the boat. Jenny finds a card reading “I love you, and I’ll be there before you can unpucker” and Ho hides in the bathtub under the water. Exciting stuff.
The boat thing is becoming a bigger and bigger metaphor for Jenny. Every guy gives her a big boat, but she doesn’t want a big boat, because she gets seasick. None of the guy’s really get her, really know her and know what makes her tick and what makes her sick. They’re too busy trying to impress her to even learn anything about her. Even Ho falls for this, but he can’t afford to just drop boat money on her. But by luck, he does manage to give her the one boat that doesn’t make her sick.
Pong arrives to try to take Jenny to Hawaii, except now that he’s become a businessman he’s busy again. Jenny storms out of the car due to his inattention, and Pong calls for a halt on his divorce. As Jenny walks back home, she sees a boat driving down the highway. No, Jenny is not tripping on acid, Ho is driving the boat (which had wheels.) You see, it is an “Around the World” boat which stays on land so it has no seasickness. Jenny still is complaining when he gets her on the boat, so he just gets off it and walks away as it drives itself off. Jenny realizes she just made a mistake and loves him, and yells out, so Ho runs and gets back on the boat. After he explains to Jenny the boat autonavigates, she says “What a niggard!”
“What a niggard!”??? Did the subtitle guy get replaced by someone from Neptune here? Anyway, they have sex and the movie ends, so everything is happy. Because of seasickness-less sex on boats. That’s how you get women, boys! Or something. This movie didn’t make much sense, but it made up for it in naked women and boat metaphors.
I’m not sure who the intended audience was, as it seems like an adult film for males, but it is filled with random segues and lots of female advice, and the humor is all over the map, approaching wacky comedy area. What could of been a tight focused film about Jenny’s love life is instead some sort of unfocused mess that doesn’t do a good job of any genre. Despite the clever pun of the title the film itself fails to live up to its cleverness and instead gets stalled. But it is oddly charming, and even though it fails, it manages to try.
Rated 5/10 (Swan time, powdered wife, be happy, meat suicide, the power of snake!)
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