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I enjoy Xu Jinglei as an actress and think her move to behind the camera shows lots of promise. I wish I didn't have to report that her latest film is a disappointment. To be fair, it's a disappointment because it's not what I expected from her. Go Lala Go!, in which she stars and directs, has none of the depth or artistry of Letter From an Unknown Woman or My Father and I. Go Lala Go! is about promotion hungry corporate trash, and it's pure popcorn fluff, hyper-kinetic and full of fashionable costuming, hairstyles, and product placement.
But is it good popcorn fluff? I'm not sure but I'm inclined to say no. It did very well at the box office (in China, in case that's not clear) and there's probably a reason. First of all, it's solidly within the constraints of the Chinese Film Bureau's guidelines of what kinds of stories should be told and what kinds of messages are permitted. Specifically, with regards to rewarding foul play, there's none of that. Lala's rise up the corporate ladder is completely the result of good honest hard work. Yes, she sleeps with a high level big shot Director of Sales but it's for love, not strategy, and the film shows it as problematic. In fact, inter-office relationships are a major theme in the movie. A blind eye is sometimes turned but for the most part they are considered not a good or acceptable idea.
Another reason for its success may be that it puts on display all the name brands and fashionable accessories many millions of Chinese feel they are fairly close to partying with. Even though us educated capitalists are hip to that myth, there's a younger generation of Chinese that is probably tired of, or uninterested in films which wallow in a prideful past and they want to dream about a possible future instead. That's all fine and good, and maybe I shouldn't rush to judgement. Xu Jinglei has given the masses what they want. Good for her. She made some money, hopefully.
There's some cultural interest for non-Chinese in Go Lala Go!, but as a film it's thin and a little too chaotic. The chaotic part seem intentional. It's almost as if Xu discovered downloadable iMovie Transitions and went nuts. The direction is strong, consistent, and assured, but it's a style I don't fancy. There are some decent comedic bits, Xu possessing a courageous inclination for the self-deprecating, and some of the love geometry is OK, but it's all stirred in very quickly, giving the sense that it's not important. Scenes just sort of smash into one another. Karen Mok is fun and she still has great legs but the American-Taiwanese pop star Stanley Huang as Lala's love interest didn't do much for me. There's some nice scenery when they all vacation to the beaches of Thailand but not much to the story.
I still can't wait to see what Xu Jinglei does next.
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