Lam Yee-Hung doesn't seem to spin the hostess movie in a particularly new or original direction but The Other Side Of Dolls sure has the feeling of something... not new but ELSE attempted. Well realized visually, simple enough but a bit drawn out, there's plenty to be drawn in by with just a hint of Charlie Cho madness sprinkled to make it a standout.
Concerning hostess or club girls Cindy (Cindy Yip), Regina (Lee Wai-Gwan) and Pauline (Pauline Lee), they bag themselves clients that they're drawn to and may have a future with. In particular Regina's partner, the old fashioned Chung (Lee Chung-Ling, Temptation Summary II, False Lady) and Pauline's Charlie (Charlie Cho) we get to follow more closely. Chung wants love then lust, Charlie wants to last longer in bed. All while the girl's boss (Lee Suet-Yin) is using the girls as bait for a blackmailing scheme...
For a hostess movie, it all seems too damn happy and these girls usually aren't on this path. Within a fairly seedy club that still in the movie can afford to have an on-stage SEXY show, Lam Yee-Hung is pushing buttons of colours and sensuality that we've seen well realized in the likes of Erotic Ghost Story - Perfect Match. It's very refreshing at all times to see effort going into the staging and lighting of Category III sex scenes and structurally it pays off to have actual erotica and sensitivity as characters do feel that... some more than others. Which brings us to Charlie Cho who doesn't last long and doesn't last the entire movie for whatever reason.
Charlie possesses the problem of premature ejaculation and it's kind of sweet seeing him in a vulnerable state go to the doctor for acupuncture but since Cho is Cho, Lam Yee-Hung realizes the spice the actor can bring and how a movie should indulge in him. Therefore in a legendary sequence, Cho fancies himself mighty and powerful enough to think of himself as the most unstoppable sexual force ever: Batman. We thank Cho for indulging and being allowed to by director Lam. At the other end of the spectrum working with the beautifully shot ladies is manic goofball Lee Chung-Ling who seems to not enjoy the restriction placed on him as a more stoic, old fashioned character. Although talking of an actor clashing with the movie seems odd considering what Charlie Cho is allowed to do, in fact Lee's performance never quite gels mixing the old fashioned and dips into the lack of restraint. That's not to say this unheralded force of Category III cinema is making a fool out of himself.
Lam Yee-Hung does a bit though and stumbles as clearly 90 minutes of material isn't present here. Therefore the technically able sex scenes go on for AAAAAAGES in some cases and the movie could've benefited a whole lot with 10 minutes removed. Then the standard template of Mainland girls seeking gold in Hong Kong but with some new story twists could've been snappier with a sprinkle of cute Charlie Cho madness added in a welcome manner. There's too much filler but as filled as it is, The Other Side Of Dolls flashes tools of creativity rarely seen in softcore porn outside the work of Ho Fan.
reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson