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The mediocre reception in the market and rather low rating were probably due to its modest promotion and difficult-to-target audiences. I highly recommend this movie for Chinese foreign students in America and American foreign students in China. Although the movie was designed to suite the taste of both American and Chinese audience, it leans more toward China elements than America. Moreover, it focuses more on the vitality and youth of modern China than the traditionally ancient elements that were usually used more to appeal to western audience. Therefore, if you are the kind of person who is interested in looking for exotic oriental girls and outlandish culture, this movie might not be your type. But if you are a person with open-mindedness and readiness to see new things springing up in a foreign and especially if you have experience of living in a foreign country, this movie is almost perfect.
There are three things that could be highlighted in this film: 1. Daniel Henney's groundbreaking performance 2. interracial relationship and immigrant personality 3. East vs. West; China vs. US.
The latter two could be simply summarized as follows: the reversal of stereotypes.
1. When was the last time you saw an Asian male actor with charming look and personality being casted as a major role in a American film? I bet you could not recollect anything. Daniel Henney is almost perfect- looking and he exactly fills this void. While he starred in Wolvering as the Agent-Zero before,a role who is cool but sinister, he could not break the spell of marginal Asian male actors in Hollywood and was given limited room for showing his acting skills. However, in this film, he is casted as the no.1 role and given tremendous opportunities to display his talent as an actor. He succeeds. Playing a professional business- men-like person wasn't a novel thing for Daniel Henney, he already got a similar role before in Seducing Mr. Perfect. While his performance in that movie relied more on his appearance, his performance in Shanghai Calling proved that he could also shine by his HUMOR. He is indeed very very funny in this film. For more information, refers to the "Tea Scene", "Noodle Scene", "Nanny Scene", etc. There were almost not a single scene in Shanghai Calling that was intended for Daniel Henney to act cool and prince-like as he did in Korean drama and film. Although there are occasional scenes and flashes of Daniel Henney's muscle and physique, they are scenes made more for the sake of development of plot or dramatizing the comedic elements of the film.
Reversal of Stereotypes: In this film, everything is overturned. there's no better way to discuss those sensitive subjects than a comedy film, mitigating offensive part of the topic through satirizing and sarcasm.
First, a charming Asian guy hooks up with a beautiful white girl. In this sense, I think no further due would be needed. But the singular elements of the interracial relationship is that a very Americanized Chinese guy gets to hook up with a very Chinesnized Caucasian girl. and it is also worth noting that Eliza and Daniel really succeed to build a chemistry between themselves and the romantic scenes is natural and unassuming.
Projecting this to a larger theme in this film, American turns into immigrant in China, and China becomes the host country of immigration. It is very interesting to see that cute little white girl refusing to speak English just in order to be integrated into the homogeneous Han Chinese social group in her school. It almost seems mirror the once poor Asian kids in a white-majority school who feels homesick and isolated.
While most of the holly-wood produced movies today tend to focus on the backward or traditional side of Chinese society, this movie put a very strong emphasis on the modern and western elements of China: Sky- scraper, dance pool, apartment, stream production in factory, the restaurant, etc. I am Chinese myself. Most of the Hollywood films about China look foreign to me, whereas the China depicted in this film is almost exactly the China I live in and I think is. The director, though a Chinese-American, does a great job understanding the modern China by his knowledge of modern Chinese culture and selection of Chinese actors. Karaoke (KTV),modern urban Chinese girls who are superficial and jealous, a crowded family living in Nong-Tang, effeminate but loyal and caring Chinese youngster, the taxi driver, and the Chinese Jazz music. That is the Shanghai I used to live.
the American humor might not be appealing to the Chinese audience;the modern and western China might not be interesting to American audience. The movie is perfect for anyone who ever have the experience of living i both countries and is the young and new generation. The movie deserves a lot of credit for its bringing of freshness and novelty.
What is bad about the Movie? The ending part of movie is rather brusque, and the law-suit case is rather childish-like.
Finally, the film conveys a universalistic message because the reversal of role in every sense simply means that every one is the same. Different outcomes simply depend on the specific context one are in, and different contexts would determine the kind of roles one would play.
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