HKMDB Daily News

November 7, 2013

Finding Mr. Right (Variety review)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: , , , — dleedlee @ 5:35 pm

Finding Mr. Right

November 7, 2013
Justin Chang

Unwieldy and exasperating, but not without a certain pushy, ingratiating charm, Xue Xiaolu’s smash hit “Finding Mr. Right” turns out to have a bit more on its mind than its generic romantic-comedy title would suggest. Over the course of its leisurely 122-minute running time, this slick, saucy tale of a spoiled mainland princess who travels to Seattle to give birth manages to address the pressures of pregnancy and parenthood, the challenges of life in a foreign country, the temptations of material wealth, and the wan but enduring charms of “Sleepless in Seattle.” The whole thing might collapse were it not for Tang Wei’s irrepressible lead performance, redeeming an initially unbearable character through the sheer, unbridled force of her personality.

Having grossed a massive $85 million on home turf since March, the film will be much more of a niche offering Stateside when it bows Nov. 8. Nevertheless, as one of the year’s big Chinese B.O. success stories, it plants Xue firmly on the map as a mainland filmmaking talent to be reckoned with (she made a prominent 2010 debut with the Jet Li starrer “Ocean Heaven”). For all the clumsy moves and openly derivative story elements she trades in here, the story has a cultural specificity that gives it a unique feel and a small measure of dramatic heft, and its jumbled parts are stitched together with a brazen confidence that feels of a piece with the winning spirit of its protagonist.

That would be Wen Jiajia (Tang), the mistress of a wealthy Beijing tycoon; he’s sent her on an all-expenses-paid trip to Seattle, where she plans to give birth to their love-child away from prying eyes back at home. The very picture of bratty self-entitlement, Jiajia is an intensely dislikable piece of work. Upon her arrival in the chilly Washington suburbs, she immediately begins heaping abuse on her patient driver, Frank (Wu Xiubo), who takes her to a home maternity center run by the kindly Mrs. Huang (Elaine Jin). There, Jiajia wastes no time in making a nuisance of herself, barking outrageously inconsiderate orders and throwing wads of cash around to ensure that they’re enforced.

As you’d expect, Jiajia’s comeuppance arrives right on schedule, just in time for the holidays. When her lover stands her up at Christmas and later cuts off her cash flow, she must learn the hard way that money isn’t everything while facing the prospect of raising her child alone. On hand to facilitate these lessons is Frank, a divorced dad who gave up a successful medical career in China to come to the U.S. With his quiet, tolerant demeanor and sad-sack goatee, he couldn’t seem a less likely match for the proud, vivacious Jiajia, which of course makes their eventual union even more of a foregone conclusion. (Naturally, she hits it off with Frank’s daughter, Julia, played at different ages by sisters Song Meihui and Song Meiman.)

As predictable as the outcome may be, Xue’s patchwork script is in no hurry to get to its “Sleepless in Seattle”-inspired romantic climax, the inevitable culmination of its endless visual and verbal references to that Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan perennial. But first, there are babies to be born, relationships to be reconciled, Western-pop-scored montages to be edited. There is no shortage of topical touches, acknowledging the rise of “birth tourism” among wealthy foreigners and critiquing the rampant consumerism of modern China. The film’s heart seems to be in the right place even at its most confused, as when it presents a warm, affirming portrait of a lesbian couple, then trots out a swishy gay stereotype a few beats later.

Against considerable odds, it’s Tang’s initially grating, ultimately winning performance that sustains this messy but endearing enterprise from start to finish. Sentenced to a five-year ban from Chinese productions in 2007 after her participation in Ang Lee’s racy “Lust, Caution,” the actress looks fully rejuvenated here, seizing into this material with such vigor and ferocity that you can almost see her delighting in her newfound freedom. She may not be a natural-born comedienne (the script gives her precious little to work with in that department), but her dramatic chops are considerable: Tang shrewdly treats Jiajia’s redemption as an extension rather than a reversal of her fighting spirit, her loneliness giving way as she thaws and thrives in her makeshift American community.

As Jiajia’s love interest and foil, Wu (best known for the Chinese TV series “Before the Dawn”) goes arguably too far in the opposite direction, coming across as stoic and recessive to a fault. Nevertheless, Frank’s fundamental decency more than shines through, and as the sole male character with any significant screen time, he doesn’t exactly face stiff competition for the titular honors.

Chan Chi-ying’s high-definition widescreen images have a sharpness of detail that makes up for the somewhat televisual framing and camera movement. The largely Vancouver-shot production has a fine feel for Pacific Northwest suburbia, contrasting with the shimmering urban panoramas of Beijing glimpsed in a few brief scenes. (The original Chinese title translates as “Beijing Meets Seattle.”) The score, however, never stops elbowing the viewer in the ribs, often swooping in to signal a dramatic shift before the plot point in question has fully registered.

Film Review: ‘Finding Mr. Right’
Reviewed at DGA Theater, West Hollywood, Nov. 6, 2013. Running time: 122 MIN. Original title: “Beijing yu shang xiyatu”

Production
(China-Hong Kong) A China Lion Film Distribution (in U.S.) release of an Edko Films, Edko Beijing Films, BDI Films, Beijing Harmony & Harvest, Communication Media, China Movie Channel presentation. (International sales: Edko Films, Hong Kong.) Produced by Bill Kong, Mathew Tang, Lu Hongshi. Executive producers, Bill Kong, Hao Lei, Susan Ma, Yan Xiaoming. Co-producers, Shan Tam, Sara Zhang, Yue Yang, Wu Yakang.

Crew
Directed, written by Xue Xiaolu. Camera (color, HD, widescreen), Chan Chi-ying; editor, Cheung Ka-fai; music, Peter Kam; production designer, Yee Chung-man; art director, Simon So; set decorator, Athena Wong; costume designer, Dora Ng; sound (Dolby Digital), Dennis Chan; re-recording mixer, Yiu Chun-hin; special effects coordinator, Rob Paller; visual effects supervisor, Tang Bingbing; visual effects, Base FX; line producer, Michael Parker; associate producers, Wayne Jiang, Yang Guojun, Jessica Chen; line producer, Michael Parker; casting, Judy Lee.

With
Tang Wei, Wu Xiubo, Haiqing, Mai Hongmei, Elaine Jin, Song Meihui, Song Meiman. (Mandarin, English dialogue)
Variety

May 6, 2013

Finding Mr. Right (Hollywood Reporter review)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: — dleedlee @ 7:38 pm

Finding Mr. Right
5/6/2013 by Elizabeth Kerr

Leading lady Tang Wei turns up the charm in this Seattle-set Chinese rom-com from director Xue Xiaolu.

Mainland China’s thirst for straight-up contemporary comedy has been demonstrated to exist beyond a reasonable doubt if the runaway success of Xue Xiaolu’s Finding Mr. Right is any indication. Starring an actress once banned from working in the country and riddled with conflicting messages about the state of the nation itself, the rom-com about the pregnant mistress of a powerful tycoon packed off to Seattle to have a baby beyond the reach of the scandal sheets does nothing to tinker with the form and holds zero surprises. But it’s adherence to rom-com convention in an industry top-heavy with historical epics extolling the genius of ancient generals and retreads of popular legends make Finding Mr. Right stand out among the crowd. Xue’s second feature is an exemplar of commercial filmmaking, and production help from a handful of Hong Kong pros (in editing, costume design, cinematography) give it the polished finish the fluffy material demands. Box office success in Asia is likely, but that very polish could make it too mainstream for overseas festivals, though some life on Asia-focused events seems likely.

Jiajia (Tang Wei, Lust, Caution) flies to Seattle (neither the first nor the last reference to Nora Ephron’s Sleepless in Seattle) ostensibly as a tourist but in reality she’s there to have her married lover’s baby. She’s greeted at the airport by Frank (television actor Wu Xiubo), who we eventually learn is a Beijing doctor as yet without a license to practice in the United States, and after some setbacks makes her way to a maternity halfway house run by Taiwanese den mother Huang Mali (an always welcome Elaine Jin). Flush with unlimited access to her rich lover’s cash, Jiajia gets a serious case of the high and mighty toward the other residents, Chen Yue (Mai Hongmei) and Zhou Yi (Hai Qing). From this point on Finding Mr. Right deals in the rote: the lover lets Jiajia down at Christmas, she gets lonely and turns to fellow Beijinger Frank for company, feelings develop. When the lover eventually cuts her off, Jiajia, as the beats of these kinds of films demand, finally hits the road to being a better person.

Writer-director Xue has proven adept at manipulating emotion for dramatic effect, as she proved in the tearjerking Jet Li vehicle Ocean Heaven, and though there’s a great deal more comedy in Finding Mr. Right, she does it again. Xue hits all the marks when she’s supposed to: We get irritated by Jiajia’s bullying and elitism, baffled by her materialism, exasperated by her treatment of Frank and inwardly sigh at his endless patience and tolerance—all at pre-ordained points on the narrative course. However, Katherine Heigl could take a lesson from Tang in how to win over an audience by sheer force of personality despite serious character flaws. Jiajia is so outrageously obnoxious at the story’s outset it would be easy to lose viewers by the 30-minute mark, but Xue wisely lets Tang be Tang and keeps us (mostly) invested in her journey. Tang and Xue both get help from Wu in the more thankless role as the grounded anchor to Jiajia’s flighty princess. The appealing central performances also patch over the clunky parts of the script, which frequently relies on lazy mechanics (voice-over exposition, “6 months later” tricks) to move forward.

The Chinese title translates as “Beijing meets Seattle,” which in some ways is a better indication of the film’s story trajectory. At its core the film isn’t really about finding Mr. Right; it’s about Jiajia’s growth as a person, aided by Frank’s inherent decency. The film’s more curious subtext that is critical of modern Chinese excess contradicts the undercurrents in Chinese society insinuating the future is the Mainland by portraying Beijing as a glittering, empty cesspool of rampant materialism populated by horrible materialistic people like Jiajia. Subtle suggestions that the original “Land of Opportunity” is superior in breeding healthy (albeit vaguely insular) community are never explored in great detail but the idea lingers on the periphery. But Finding Mr. Right is as much a dissertation on 21st century social dynamics as Sleepless was, and in the end the hidden message doesn’t matter.

Producer: Bill Kong, Mathew Tang, Lu Hongshi
Director: Xue Xiaolu
Cast: Tang Wei, Wu Xiubo, Elaine Jin, Hai Qing, Mai Hongmei, Song Meihui, Liu Yiwei
Screenwriter: Xue Xiaolu
Executive producer: Hao Lei, Ma Hefeng, Yan Xiaoming
Director of photography: Chan Chi-ying
Production designer: Yee Chung-man
Music: Peter Kam
Costume designer: Dora Ng
Editor: Cheung Ka-fai
No rating, 123 minutes
THR

February 25, 2013

Finding Mr. Right (Screen Daily review)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: , , — dleedlee @ 1:10 pm

Finding Mr. Right
25 February, 2013
By Edmund Lee

Just as Meg Ryan juggled serendipity and sentimentality with the spiritual aid of the Leo McCarey weepie An Affair to Remember, Tang Wei (Lust, Caution, Late Autumn) draws inspiration from Sleepless In Seattle in the creatively titled Finding Mr. Right, finding Mr. Right while making her way via Seattle to the top of New York’s Empire State Building.

A spirited sophomore effort after her heavy-handed directorial debut (the Jet Li tearjerker Ocean Heaven), writer-director Xue Xiaolu’s Seattle- and New York-set romantic comedy is nothing you haven’t seen before – although it’s also pleasant enough to disarm you with its sweetness. The movie is scheduled for a late-March release in Hong Kong and mainland China.

In it, Tang plays Jiajia, a materialistic prima donna who is temporarily staying in Seattle – presumably because she’s a huge fan of the Nora Ephron movie – to give birth to the child of her rich, married lover in Beijing. When her plan to check into a maternity centre goes awry, however, she’s instead taken by her hired driver Frank (veteran TV actor Wu Xiubo, dutifully wooden) to a small home run by a friend of his, the Taiwanese caretaker Mrs Huang (Elaine Jin).

As her (off-screen) boyfriend continually fails to shrug off either his wife or the criminal investigations into his possibly shady business, the lonely Jiajia soon discovers the loving side of Frank, who was once a famous doctor in Beijing before moving to the US and being divorced by his more financially competent wife, an inconvenient truth that he’s been keeping from his young daughter and grieving silently ever since.

Directing from her own script, Xue has come up with a conventional yet surprisingly delightful rom-com, at once filled with authentically written supporting characters and some gently humorous sequences, including several that mischievously toy with Jiajia’s limited knowledge in English.

Amid the predictable story trajectory which sees the budding couple respectively recover from their unfortunate romantic past, readjust their focuses in life and finally meet up again for their purely coincidental romantic resolution at you-know-where, it’s Tang’s immense likeability in her alternately sassy and vulnerable role that holds it all together. Finding Mr. Right thrives on the effortless charisma of its lead actress.

Production company: Edko Films

International sales: Edko Films Limited, info@edkofilm.com.hk

Producers: Bill Kong, Mathew Tang, Lu Hongshi

Executive producers: Bill Kong, Hao Lee, Susan Ma, Yan Xiaoming

Cinematography: Chan Chi-ying

Editor: Cheung Ka-fai

Production designer: Yee Chung-man

Music: Peter Kam

Main cast: Tang Wei, Wu Xiubo, Hai Qing, Mai Hongmei, Elaine Jin
ScreenDaily

June 19, 2012

June 19, 2012 [HKMDB Daily News]

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Director Xue Xiaolu

Tang Wei

Tang Wei, Wu Xiubo

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Huang Yi

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Karen Mok (Sina)2

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Shanghai trailer release conference

Hawick Lau, Yang Mi

Chrissie Chau

(Sina)

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Fiona Sit

Director Fung Chi-Keung, Fiona Sit, Stephanie Cheng, Charmaine Fong

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