Turning back the clock on female empowerment with a wink and a wiggle, "Women Who Flirt" is a rom-com that occupies the silly end of the satiric spectrum.
Hong Kong director and co-writer Pang Ho-Cheung sends up gender stereotypes and reinforces them in his contemporary yet not quite fresh confection, zeroing in on certain women's girlie wiles. He surrounds the central couple — longtime friends who should be lovers, if only the guy would stop thinking of her as a "bro" — with a collection of cartoonish types who range from the gleefully out-there to the tiresomely been-there.
The director crafts a clever opening for a story of young adults in consumerist China: What looks like a bad breakup scene is actually a bit of on-the-job role-playing for Angie (Zhou Xun, warm and relatable) and Marco (Huang Xiaoming), efficiency experts in Shanghai who are posing as high-end diners.
But Marco drops a bombshell into their business as usual. His news that he's dating a woman he met in Taiwan (Tang Sui) sets Angie's unrequited feelings into an overdrive of desperation.
Cue the makeover, overseen by May (a sharp Xie Yilin) and the "Barbie army" she enlists to guide Angie in the fine art of seductive cooing — i.e., acting dumb and defenseless.
Down-to-earth Angie's flirt-savvy friends recognize that she's up against a pro, and Marco's girlfriend is indeed a hissable manipulator. Despite a few unexpectedly kinky observations, the how-to-get-a-man bit goes round in predictable circles.
This is hardly the first movie where the romantic destiny of a smart, kind, talented woman is the clueless nebbish who's taken her for granted for years.
'Women Who Flirt'
No MPAA rating; in Mandarin with subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 37 minutes