A decent but unmemorable romantic comedy featuring strong performances by Eason Chan and Rene Liu
You may have noticed the recent increase of Mainland Chinese friendly movies. These productions feature a mix of recognisable household names and less familiar Mainland Chinese stars. A large part of these co productions are shot on location in China. Most important of all, these movies touch on subject matters which do not require censorship, making romantic comedies a favourite genre amongst filmmakers.
The rationale behind the boost of these productions is clear: The Mainland Chinese market is a lucrative one, and isn't movie making predominantly a money making business these days?
The latest in joining the frenzy is Hong Kong writer director Patrick Kong. His previous solo directorial efforts (2008's Forgive and Forget, 2009's Love Connected) may not have been screened in theatres here, but you may have seen DVDs of movies like Love Is Not All Around (2007) and L For Love, L For Lies (2008) on sale in local retail stores. From the above-mentioned movie titles, you would have noticed that Kong is apt at helming romantic flicks, which makes his latest work very accessible in the Mainland Chinese market.
The movie's protagonist is a married man who has to deal with bills, loans and a wife who adds to the high cost of living. To make ends meet, he takes on the job of a personal assistant to a seemingly cold and unfeeling CEO in a perfume company. The catch here? He has to pretend that he is still single to nab that high paying job.
Based on a stage production, this decent movie tackles a phenomenon which is apparently a cosmopolitan social issue in China. Young people are getting married secretly (to the rest of the world, they are still single) in order to get a better job and command a higher income. Because this isn't a problem in our society, this social commentary may fly past our heads. As a result, this production may merely be a time passing romantic comedy.
Which is quite a shame, because the movie does offer some issues which are worth pondering in our fast paced society. Most viewers are likely to miss them though, because the 103 minute plays out in a predictable manner, throwing in predictable chuckle worthy moments and the obligatory product placements so intermittently, you'd dismiss it like the dozens of romantic comedies you've seen elsewhere.
The familiar faces here are singers Eason Chan and Rene Liu. Chan plays the man who faces the pressures of sustaining his marriage with a highly paid job, while Liu plays his unsympathetic and hardhearted boss. The power play here is interesting in the initial stages, but as the movie progresses, it develops into an inevitable romance between the two. The tension is set up nicely, but it's nothing you haven't seen elsewhere. The two leads deliver strong performances, especially with Liu taking on a role she's particularly good at – the long suffering woman who appears strong and competent on the outside, but is desperately in need of affection and care.
Elsewhere, expect stereotypical portrayals of supporting characters like the one dimensional wife (Bai Bing), the gay colleague (Chen Hao) and the girlfriend who dishes bad advice (Qin Lan). Harlem Yu also shows up for a special appearance as Chan's good friend. One thing which we always welcome in productions like this is hearing our favourite singers perform. And that's why when Chan and Liu's songs were played, we couldn't help but hum quietly along, thinking to ourselves that this isn't such a bad movie after all.
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