31 July 2014 | name99-92-545389
Disappointing along most dimensions
I (a falang American) watched this out of curiosity, to see what a Chinese version of this sort of movie is like. Obviously one can't generalize from one movie, but all I can say it that, for the sake of Chinese audiences, I hope that most of their Rom Com directors are more skilled than Daming Chen.
Regarding the movie itself, I'll repeat the comments of most other reviewers. Gong Li is as gorgeous as ever, but that's all she is --- a pretty face that exists to move the plot along. Andy Lau's character, on the other hand, is not neutral but vile. And he doesn't get better as the movie progresses --- he's the same dick at the end that he was at the beginning. It's not just that there's no chemistry between the two, it's that you don't want chemistry between them. Also don't expect any laughs along the way --- this fits the Rom Com mold, but has none of the comedy that could be wrung from the situation.
The budget (as suggested by the stars, the decent lighting and costumes, the sets/locations) suggest a high-end movie, but the actual content --- everything from the clumsy and didactic story to the lack of humor or subtlety --- suggests the sort of sad movies you see on an indie TV channel late at night starring Hollywood hopefuls you've never heard of, in some direct to DVD garbage.
What is interesting is the image of China it presents. The buildings shown are all incredibly new and, while I expect the intention was to present some sort of air of glamor, to me it felt extremely nouveau riche. The buildings struck me as not so much Manhattan as Brasilia --- designed based on theory rather than on human needs, and likely to be showing cracks and flaws in just a few years. There's one scene where we see our heroine in a car driving down a highway which struck me as the one scene where Chinese reality enters --- the highway is lousy and narrow, with few cars on it --- something like what the Pasadena Freeway may have looked like when it opened in 1940, and nothing at all like the general highways of Los Angeles today.
The second image of China it presents is of a country that has not yet undergone the "psychologicalization" of America. The characters seem unable to relate to each other or discuss their inner lives in a way that Americans (helped by TV and movies) had already achieved by the early 70s or so. The clumsiness of the dialog doesn't help, sure, but it seems that there's more than that, that the screenwriter honestly doesn't know (or at least doesn't expect the audience to know) how to be introspective, how to have a theory of mind, how to interpret other people. They go through the motions (we get the occasional sermon on "being honest") but there's no follow-through, no appreciation of the relevant issues. You get the feeling that if you told the Andy Lau character to be vulnerable, to honestly communicate, he'd have no idea what that even meant; or that if you told Gong Li's character that she allows herself to be a doormat, she'd not understand the point you were making.