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February 18, 2014

Beijing Love Story (Variety review)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: , — dleedlee @ 4:14 pm

Beijing Love Story

FEBRUARY 16, 2014

This romantic-comedy roundelay gets better as it gradually moves away from comedy toward more sentimental material.

Dennis Harvey
Taking a rather blatant page from the Richard Curtis playbook of romantic-comedy roundelays, “Beijing Love Story” serves up a chocolate box of disparate narrative sweets, offered in episodic rather than interwoven form. This first feature for writer-director Chen Sicheng (also a member of the ensemble cast) spins off his 2012 Chinese TV series of the same name, albeit sans any returning characters or story threads. Pleasant results manage a trick rather infrequent for this genre, in that the pic actually gets better as it gradually moves away from comedy toward more sentimental material. Launched on Valentine’s Day (natch) in various markets, including nine North American screens, the film set a single-day record for a 2D film in China with $16.1 million, and is sure to generate sequels and imitations.

Running heedlessly toward the requisite “girl of his dreams” in traffic, young architect Chen Feng (helmer Chen) is promptly creamed by a passing bus. Reflecting that he never imagined his story would end this way as he flies through the air, he recalls the fateful night he met Shen Yan (Tong Liya) at a friend’s bachelor party. It’s love at first sight, and surprisingly — especially given that he’s initially very drunk and vomits endlessly — she feels likewise. The problem is that he has no assets, and her parents would much prefer she marry a rich suitor already waiting in the wings.

Chen’s boss, Wu Zheng (Wang Xuebing), merrily brags that over a decade of marriage, he’s cheated nonstop on his wife, Zhang Lei (Yu Nan). However, when she finally figures out what he’s really up to during his nightly “business dinners,” that achievement suddenly doesn’t seem so funny anymore. Her attempts at revenge infidelity don’t go so well, including with her own boss (Tony Leung Ka-fai), who soon jets off for a sinfully glamorous (and expensive) Greek seaside rendezvous with what appears to be his longtime mistress (Carina Lau). But it turns out they’re just role playing in an attempt to jazz up a more conventional relationship.

They’ve come a long, jaded way from home, where their innocent teenage daughter (cellist Nana Ou-yang) is forbidden to enter a TV talent contest with the other members of her string quartet. The boy (Liu Haoran) who has a crush on her — and who can also literally see people’s “auras” — decides to make that dream come true nonetheless. On the opposite end of the age scale, the boy’s grandfather, Old Wang (Wang Qingxiang), is enduring the strenuous efforts of Mrs. Gao’s (Siqin Gaowa) to hook him up with a suitable older lady; he’s unimpressed until she arranges a blind date with an attractive divorcee who has just returned after two decades in America.

Pic moves from initially raunchy comedy through spy-movie parody, sex farce, disarmingly wide-eyed adolescent love and finally bittersweet melodrama, never entirely forsaking humor or an earnest belief in romantic love despite all the surface shifts. While there’s no great originality on display here, “Beijing Love Story” handles its full range of stylistic and tonal gambits with impressive assurance. A strong performance or a well-placed sober moment always brings things back to terra firma whenever they turn a bit over-the-top.

Flashiest in its first reel, especially editorially, the widescreen feature maintains a refreshing attention to composition, color and camera movement in a genre that too often dispenses with visual finesse in favor of TV-style functionality. All tech contributions are high-grade.

Film Review: ‘Beijing Love Story’
Reviewed online, San Francisco, Feb. 13, 2014. Running time: 122 MIN.

(China) A China Lion Film Distribution (in U.S.) release of a Wanda Media and Shine Asia Media Co. presentation. Produced by Jerry Ye, Xia Chen’an, Gillian Zhao. Executive producers, Abe Kwong, Cary Cheng, Li Yaping. Co-producers, Albert Yeung, Li Yaping, Mani Fox, Kevin Zheng, Xia Hua, Hou Guangming, Zhao Zhi, Felix Liu, Howard Chen, Yuan Xiaomu, Yu Jianhong, Penny Jang, Wu Bin, Abby Zhang.

Directed, written by Chen Sicheng. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Song Xiaofei; editor, Tu Yiran; music, Dong Dongdong; production designer, William Chang; sound, Gary Chen; re-recording mixers, Joe Huang, Terry Tu; assistant director, Chan Po Chan; casting, Lu Yeng.

Tony Leung Ka-fai, Carina Lau, Wang Xuebing, Yu Nan, Wang Qingxiang, Chen S’tchingowa, Chen Sicheng, Tong Liya, Elaine Jin, Geng Le, Guo Jingfei, Nana Ou-yang, Liu Haoran, Siqin Gaowa. (Mandarin dialogue)

February 14, 2014

Beijing Love Story (Hollywood Reporter review)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: , — dleedlee @ 6:48 pm

Beijing Love Story
2/13/2014 by Frank Scheck

The Bottom Line
Chinese audiences will flock to this moving if awkwardly rendered portrait of multi-generational romance.
This spin-off of the hugely popular Chinese television series presents a complex series of intertwined love stories.

Demonstrating that sappiness recognizes no international borders, Beijing Love Story belies its title by presenting a series of intertwined love stories taking place in that capital city. A spin-off of the hugely popular 2012 Chinese television series of the same name, this directorial debut by Chen Sicheng is too diffuse and understated to achieve crossover success. But Chinese moviegoers both home and abroad will likely flock to the film which is receiving a day-and-date release with the Mainland, appropriately on Valentine’s Day.

The filmmaker also plays a leading role in the first segment, portraying Feng, an impoverished young man who quickly falls in love, impregnates and proposes to a beautiful young woman (Tony Liya) from an affluent family. But the relationship doesn’t sit well with the woman’s status-obsessed mother or her still-besotted ex-boyfriend who both do their best to derail the couple’s happiness.

Other intertwined segments involve Feng’s married best friend (Wang Xuebing) whose wife (Yu Nan) discovers his rampant infidelity and becomes determined to get revenge in kind; a high school student (Liu Haoran) who finds himself besotted with a young cello prodigy (Nana Ou Yang) because of her “aura,” only to be crushed when she leaves him to go to England and attend a private school; the girl’s father (Tony Leung Ka Fai), who heads to Greece to reunite with his longtime mistress (Carina Lau), with the assignation spoiled by his angry discovery that she’s had plastic surgery; and the boy’s grandfather (Wang Qinxiang), who’s set up on a series of disastrous blind dates by his cousin matchmaker (Siqin Gaowa). When he finally meets a woman who seems suitable, his happiness becomes short-lived when a tragic secret is revealed.

The tyro director/screenwriter, clearly influenced by American movies ranging from Love, Actually to Titanic — the latter is referred to several times — is not fully successful in tying together the multiple storylines in coherent fashion, with the occasional doses of magical realism injected into the proceedings feeling particularly strained. Ultimately, the film’s attempt at blending humor, poignancy and melodrama results in an awkward mish-mosh. But it has heart to spare, and the performances by the multi-generational ensemble are very effective, with particularly moving work by the veterans in the cast.

Opens: Friday, Feb. 14 (China Lion Film)
Production: Wanda Media Company, Shine Entertainment Media Company
Cast: Tony Leung ka Fai, Wang Xuebing, Siqin Gaowa, Carina Lau, Tong Liya, Jin Yanling, Yu Nan, Wang Qinxiang, Chen Sicheng
Director/screenwriter: Chen Sicheng
Producer: Li Chen
Not rated, 122 min.

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