12 May 2016 | jdesando
A Fine Romance
If you take the next right turn, you'll avoid running into Nicholas Sparks, the schlockmeister of many teary romantic novels made into films. In the Chinese Finding Mr. Right 2, you are driving straight ahead into a fine non-Sparks romance that feels just about right even if you shed a few honest tears. Beginning with a shared novel, 84, Charing Cross Road, a relatively Chinese man and woman write to each other by sending to the Charing Cross address.
That novel, written in 1970 by Helene Hanff about her twenty-year correspondence with book buyer Frank Doel at Marks & Co., is enough of a prep for the long-distance of the two Chinese principals. A whole load of misfortune comes the way of the couple, sometimes depicted in almost magic realism but real nonetheless. The actors do a remarkable job endearing us to the characters but letting us see their flaws all the same.
Jiao (Wei Tang), a hostess in a Macau casino, and Daniel (Xiubo Wu), a Los Angeles real estate agent, strike up a correspondence, the former claiming to be from London's posh West End and the latter a west-coast professor. While this looks like we're driving straight into Sparksville, we actually are exploring the insides of these two emotionally-challenged heroes.
And that's what I like about this romance: It feels real because there are many emotional failures, she, for example, with an older wealthy man, and he, well, considers himself like a cactus, wounding those who get too close. Although they have never met, they express feelings in the letters that provide the groundwork for better relationships all around.
Although the main story looks like a promotion of long-distance relationships, it actually is well-constructed promotion of the need to go out to find love, and more importantly, self fulfillment through love's many forms, even if it can't be consummated or even experienced in a real way.
Gambling serves as a motif for her taking chances on finding true love and for him breaking away from easy client marks to return to home and the heart. While she has varying luck with actual gambling, he is less ready to gamble his comforts.
Although having them miss each other while they search is a cheap dramatic device, the story has been rooted in an address that eventually must be faced. Having visited a couple of bookstores in the West End of London, I can vouch for their claustrophobic room and the accompanying intimacy with your fellow humans, not a bad idea given that they are probably brighter than usual.
Do the correspondents ever meet up? Well, in Sparks they would, and one of them might die. Although such claptrap is not the stuff of this romance, you will not know the answer to my question until the final scenes. I'm happy with that turn of events because it hasn't been easy for the two, as it usually isn't for people who love passionately or are passionately in love with the idea of love.
The real bookstore in London now houses a McDonalds. How's that for romance?