The Movie Emperor premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival to a packed theatre. The Andy Lau starring movie is hilariously ridiculous at times, while also striking a positive emotional chord with those in my screening during the Fest. But despite the collective reactions I witnessed, the movie works amazingly as a commentary on our current pop culture and entertainment industry goings on. Read on for my The Movie Emperor review.
The Movie Emperor review is spoiler-free.
How A Failing Actor Attempts To Revive His Career
The Movie Emperor sees Andy Lau as a fictionalized version of himself. Danny Lau (Andy Lau) is an aging veteran actor in the Hong Kong film industry, who is struggling with how mainstream awards success has eluded him thus far in this career. In a bid to stay relevant, Lau is working with a new media marketing company, to bring himself into modern times and appeal to Gen Z. After much thought, Lau feels that pursuing a film that is made solely to cater to international film festivals will be his ticket to the validation he seeks from the audience and his peers. But doing a film that is clearly trying to manipulate audiences, juries and the public at large, is a slippery slope, as Danny quickly learns.
A Stark And Hilarious Look At Trying To Stay Relevant
The premise of The Movie Emperor is already pretty meta, given that the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. So there’s a level of self-referential comedy at play, even before we get into the details. However, unlike Lau and this movie, Danny’s movie within the films starts to unravel. Chasing only acclaim and recognition, the choices Danny makes start going from exploitative to downright ridiculous.
Playing a villager, as that apparently resonates with international audiences, Danny feels like he’s out of touch with the common man. So he stays in a 3-star hotel instead of his usual luxurious accommodation. And dismisses his entourage at the same time. However, it’s short-lived as the modest hotel room begins to fill up with Danny’s lifestyle, with exercise machines and oxygen tanks. The comedy in The Movie Emperor comes from these deadpan moments and deliveries that are unexpected and thus have a much more significant impact. And the icing on the cake is that the characters themselves are completely oblivious to any of these comedic moments.
The Movie Emperor Review Has No Spoilers
The film is a great look at the lengths that those in the entertainment industry will go to in order to try to stay relevant. Doing short jokey videos, using language that is hip and cool, and essentially trying to engage with a pop culture zeitgeist that they barely understand. On top of all this, Danny is also dealing with an estrangement from his wife and kids, adding to the existing professional stresses in his life.
Lau is absolutely perfect as a superstar who finds himself at a weird crossroads. The Movie Emperor review also loves that the actor gets triggered by these other, smaller subplots, like an ongoing feud with a parked car at his hotel’s garage. Which, again, is completely hilarious! Director Ning Hao directs the comedy with almost a perfect execution that really makes audiences relish the moment, but also completely relate to Lau’s frustration in the moment. The film is a universal look at political correctness and about the futility of trying to please everyone, instead of being true to yourself. It’s a lesson that comes hard learned throughout the movie, and at times, is kind of devastating to watch.
An Entirely Relevant Look Into Current Society
Ultimately, The Movie Emperor review ends with just how timely this film is. Without referencing specific events, what Lau goes through in the movie are things happening literally in Hollywood today. Celebrities put their feet in their mouths, less than aware apologies for behaviour that they are unable to understand was wrong while trying to keep a fan base and their star status intact. It’s hilarious, frustrating and so very captivating to watch.
A great story provides a commentary on an event or a certain topic. But an even greater story doesn’t provide a resolution but instead invites discussions and conversations to move ahead and create engagement and opportunities to learn from. And in that regard, The Movie Emperor is a wonderful success.
The Movie Emperor premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival 2023.
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TIFF 2023: THE MOVIE EMPEROR Is A Meta Commentary On Pursuit Of Pop Culture Relevancy
- Acting - 8.5/108.5/10
- Cinematography/Visual Effects - 7.5/107.5/10
- Plot/Screenplay - 9/109/10
- Setting/Theme - 7.5/107.5/10
- Watchability - 8/108/10
- Rewatchability - 8/108/10