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Zhao is an aging bachelor who hasn't been lucky in love. Thinking he has finally met the woman of his dreams, Zhao leads her to believe he is wealthy and agrees to a wedding far beyond his means. Zhao's best friend Li hatches the idea to raise the money by refurbishing an abandoned bus, which they will rent out by the hour--the Happy Times Hotel--to young couples starved for privacy. Unfortunately, this plan goes awry because Zhao is too old fashioned to allow the couples to leave the bus door closed. Meanwhile, Zhao's fiancee introduces him to her spoiled son and beautiful blind stepdaughter Wu Ying, whom she sees as a burden. To be rid of the girl, she insists that Zhao take her to the Happy Times Hotel and give her a job. Zhao reluctantly agrees, then creates a series of deceptions to keep the girl occupied, including setting her up as a masseuse and enlisting his friends to pretend to be her customers. Everything that is happening between Zhao and Wu is superficially about ... Written by
Sujit R. Varma
Zhao is a 50 year old unemployed loser making one last attempt at finding love. He courts a portly divorcee, but keeps having to lie to pass himself off as a better catch than he really is. Eventually, of course, the lies backfire. Zhao tells his sweetheart that he is the manager of a fancy hotel. She responds by foisting her blind stepdaughter off on him, confident that he can easily find her employment at his fancy hotel.
What follows is a funny, unlikely and touching relationship between Zhao and the blind girl Wu. While Zhao is terribly misguided, constructing elaborate deceptions to keep Wu "employed" at the non-existent hotel, he does these wrong things for the right reasons. Zhao does find love, but it isn't the woman or the love he expected.
This is an excellent film and there are three big reasons why: First of all, it's directed by Zhang Yimou who may well be the best director alive. This isn't a masterpiece like "Raise the Red Lantern," but seeing the phrase "Directed by Zhang Yimou" should be enough to tell you the next two hours will be well spent.
The second and third reasons are Benshan Zhao as Zhao and Jei Dong as Wu. Zhao is a respected Chinese comedian, but the role here is really a mixture of comedy and drama. Zhao gives the mixture exactly the right touch. But the real revelation is Jei Dong. I found myself wondering through the entire movie if she were really blind. She is that good. (And I still don't know the answer.)
Don't expect a laugh out loud comedy if you see this movie. It is very funny in places, but frequently that humor is very uncomfortable. And frequently happy times aren't really what they seem.
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