Diana and Wai have become overburdened with debt, and in a scheme to make some quick cash, they put together a fake "family" to go on a reality TV show. Their family is pitted against another one, and they must compete to see who can live off the smallest amount of money. But as the game approaches the end, the show's producer forces the director to make a few changes to boost ratings, which may inadvertently expose Diana and Wai for the frauds they are.
Hong Kong’s economic troubles are reflected in a reality TV show in Derek Chiu’s Frugal Game.
The show’s concept is simple: two families are given HK$400 to live off for a week and must stay under surveillance by camera crews.
The team with the most money at the end of the week will have their family home paid off as a prize. Leading the film is the Wai “family” – a divorced father (Eric Tsang), his children and his ex-colleague Diana (Carol Cheng) posing as his wife – who compete against another team not averse to belt-tightening and starvation diets. Released as many Hongkongers feared financial pressure and rising unemployment, Frugal Game condensed several hot-topic difficulties into its scenario. At the outset viewers are introduced to workforce changes before action moves to the TV show’s studio apartments, which feature wall-sized photos of Hong Kong among the backdrops. While the unemployed family members are treated poorly by the authorities behind the game show, brief encouraging comments that Hong Kong people can get over hardship are thrown in here and there to give a more upbeat message. Comedy is mostly overplayed throughout Frugal Game, from extravagant make-up on actress Josie Ho to humourous sound effects and a playful soundtrack. While the film fails to deliver the level of comedy suggested by such touches, the social angle sets it apart with lighthearted comment on increasingly difficult times. Frugal Game features the return of Carol Cheng to Hong Kong cinema after several years away. Cheng opens the film with an abrasive character to play but lets audiences warm up to her over time. Keeping up the general box office appeal are idols Miriam Yeung and Eason Chan in pleasing parts as Wai’s daughter Chin-wah and TV show director Hero respectively. Former kung-fu star Ti Lung also appears in a side role as himself.
Thanks to Far East Film Festival