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 ...
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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
Touching, Well-Acted, Working Class Urban China with Haagen Daz
No longer partnered, artistically or domestically, with the stunning Gong Li, director Zhang Yimou has probably redeemed himself with Party satraps through his engaging serio-comic "Happy Days." (He's been in and out of hot water with past films.) Destined to reach a miniscule audience in theaters, this touching film ought to be widely viewed when released for sale or rental.
Set in an unnamed Chinese city (definitely not Beijing), the story revolves around retired factory worker Zhau, just over fifty, and a blind teenager, Wu Ying, stepdaughter of the corpulent and avaricious woman the impecunious Zhau seeks as a wife. Wu Ying, blind since early childhood from a tumor, has to deal not only with her witch of a stepmom (dad fled from her and is supposedly in a far off city working to send money to bring his daughter to him) but with her stepbrother, a bulbous slobus amoebus training to match his mother's nastiness.
Zhau has a covey of good friends. His first get rich scheme, hatched up with his closest friend, is to "restore" a derelict bus in a park to its pristine state so it can be rented for quick, hot sheet assignations ("Happy Times Hotel"). Americans will find the Chinese take on non-marital, catch-as-catch-can sex naive but it reflects tension balanced by humor in a country where the citified young seek freedoms their elders never enjoyed.
The core of the story is Zhau's attempts to take care of Yu Wing after the evil stepmom throws her at Zhau and tells him to get her out of the house and keep her out. With his friends, all equally hovering near or under the poverty line, Zhau sets Yu Wing up as a masseuse in a fake massage parlor in a decrepit abandoned factory, the legitimate kind of parlor, not the type I heard about when an Army officer in severalAsian countries (Yu Wing was trained to give massages).
I won't reveal the lengths Zhau and his gang go to in their effort to sustain Yu Wing and make her happy. Some of their scheming is very funny. The ending reflects, hardly for the first time, Zhang Yimou's skill not only as a top director but also as a talented storyteller.
I've never seen the actor and actress who play the leads before. They simply blend their performances convincingly into a seamless story that says more about the possibilities and rewards of empathy and the joys of caring than it does about modern China. The locales here range from an affluent downtown to a condemned, empty factory. There's hardly any politics. It's sad, though, that a decent, retired factory worker can't spring for a 25 yuan Haagen Daz small cone offered in a shop that could have been imported from Main Street.
Put this one on your to-rent list!!
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