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By Jamie Tipps | June 25, 2008

“Help me Eros” is the story of a young stockbroker Ah Jie (Kang-Sheng Lee) who has lost all his money playing the market. Despite being evicted, he is secretly squatting in his luxury apartment and slowly pawning off his worldly possessions in order to make money. His greatest priority is tending to his extensive garden of marijuana plants which he smokes incessantly. As his life spirals out of control, he calls a suicide hotline and connects with a friendly voice. He fantasizes about his counselor Chyi (Jane Liao) and wants to meet face to face, but she is hiding a secret—a weight problem. Unhappily married to a television chef, she continues to balloon in size as her husband explores extracurricular activities of his own. Since he can’t approach Chyi, Ah Jie begins to project his lustful fantasies upon Shin (Ivy Yi), a local shop girl who mans the betel nut stand. Shin (apparently a cross between corner store worker and corner street walker) and Ah Jie engage in an erotic, drug fueled journey.

Director Lee’s film is coolly stylish. The camera work is often lovely, and the world seems both realistic and exotic at the same time. The graphic sex scenes are, well, graphic—but they are safely in the realm of art house and out of smut territory. Even the story is nicely streamlined. However, as slick as the production is, I have a hard time getting behind the characters. With the exception of Shin, who emanates a sort of loyal sweetness, the rest of the lot are short on emotion. Their struggles seem to be more intellectual than visceral. Ah Jie apparently wants to numb his pain through excessive use of drugs and increasingly robust sex, but he never really seems that worked up in the first place. His pursuit of women also smacks of apathy. Though his financial situation is dire, Ah Jie’s problems don’t seem to merit the existential gloom that he wallows in. As he approaches his descent with blasé detachment, I can’t help but wonder, why doesn’t he just get a job?

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