Fri, May 15, 2015 - Page 12 News List

Movie review: The Missing Piece (缺角一族)

Director Chiang Fong-hung’s light-hearted comedy tells more than a youthful romance between a hitchhiker and a betel nut beauty

By Ho Yi  /  Staff reporter

The Missing Piece owes much of its success to its finely tuned cast.

Photo courtesy of Three Giant Production

Featuring pop idol Ella Chen (陳嘉樺) as a betel nut beauty (檳榔西施) falling for a younger man, The Missing Piece (缺角一族) is fortunately more than the usual soap opera schlock. For his second feature, veteran TV director Chiang Fong-hung (江豐宏) produces a romantic, light-hearted comedy which balances the youthful love story with a look into the characters’ self-seeking quests. The movie boasts a finely tuned cast, comprising veteran thespian Tsai Chen-nan (蔡振南), young talent Austin Lin (林柏宏) and Chen.

At the center of the lively drama is Daofeng (Lin), a bashful college student who breaks from his humdrum city life and plans to hitchhike to a tropical town called Sunshine Village.

Along his trek, Daofeng meets Shasha (Chen), a jovial betel nut girl who wears flamboyant costumes in her transparent booth surrounded by vast, sun-baked grassland.

Another daily commuter is Uncle Tin Can (Tsai), who lives alone in a big house by the sea and spends his time recycling abandoned things. Uncle Tin Can and Daofeng become friends. Yet another encounter brings Daofeng to local villager Auntie Haichu (played by Lin Mei-chao, 林美照), who likes to eat her lunchbox in front of a tall chimney of a defunct sugar factory.

Daofeng’s new friends make him feel right at home. But the more he comes to know them, the more he realizes that underneath their blithe appearances, they are hurt and lost inside, longing for reconciliation with themselves and others. Meanwhile, Daofeng’s affection toward Shasha gradually grows.

Despite a fair amount of narrative untidiness, Chiang’s second feature is a feel-good movie that strikes a chord with the audience through universal themes of love, regret and reconciliation. Known for his life-long collaboration with film maestro Tsai Ming-liang (蔡明亮), cinematographer Liao Pen-jung (廖本榕) injects buoyant exuberance. Bathed in vibrant hues, even the roadside betel-nut stand brings to mind a quaint cottage from a fairy tale.

The Missing Piece (缺角一族)

Directed by: Chiang Fong-hung (江豐宏)

Starring: Ella Chen (陳嘉樺) as Shasha, Austin Lin (林柏宏) as Lin Dao-feng, Tsai Chen-nan (蔡振南) as Uncle Tin Can

Language: In Mandarin with English and Chinese subtitles

Running time: 104 minutes

Taiwan release: Today

Chiang’s decades-long career as a TV drama director gives him a keen eye for choosing the right actor for the role. Lin and Chen complement each other well as a couple with contrasting personalities. But the most noticeable performance is delivered by Tsai who effortlessly brings to life the many facets of his character, swinging from idiosyncrasy to graciousness.

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