If You Are the One II 非誠勿擾Ⅱ
Contemporary romantic drama
2010, colour, 2.35:1, 123 mins
Directed by Feng Xiaogang (馮小剛)
By Derek Elley
Fri, 07 January 2011, 11:23 AM (HKT)
Sequel is more melancholy, but gets by with film technique and on-screen chemistry. Beyond Asia, niche business only.
Beijing, April 2010. After two years of shilly-shallying, independently wealthy former inventor Qin Fen (Ge You) finally proposes to air stewardess Liang Xiaoxiao (Shu Qi) on the Great Wall. However, to avoid a similar situation to that of their friends Mango (Yao Chen) and Li Xiangshan (Sun Honglei) — who've both just split up after five years of marriage — they pragmatically decide to have a "trial marriage" first, and Qin invites Liang to his luxury hillside home in the south of Hainan Island. However, things don't go smoothly on the first night, and the next day Qin pretends to be paralysed in a wheelchair to test Liang's commitment to him. Eventually, Liang confesses that she likes him but doesn't love him, and Qin accepts that the relationship is over. Back in Beijing, Qin teams with young reporter Xuanxuan (An Yixuan) making TV documentaries for Li, who runs a successful production company. But then fate, and some surprising news, reshuffles everyone's lives.
Though it's shot and packaged even more glossily than the original 2008 movie — whose d.p. LÜ Yue 呂樂, editor XIAO Yang 肖洋 and production designer SHI Haiying 石海鷹 all return here — If You Are the One II 非誠勿擾Ⅱ (2010) is way more melancholic and philosophical, with the seemingly mismatched, straight-talking pair now seriously flirting with marriage after their extended courtship. Director-writer FENG Xiaogang 馮小剛 has this time teamed with onetime "bad boy" novelist WANG Shuo 王朔 for a view of marriage that's every bit as cynical (though more slickly coated) than their last collaboration, Sigh 一聲嘆息 (2000). The miracle is that, with so much anti-romantic material in what is meant to be a romantic comedy-drama, the film manages to sustain interest for two hours — and even draw a few sniffles at the end.
At the end of the day, the movie gets by on pure film-making technique and the chemistry between its two leads, GE You 葛優 and SHU Qi 舒淇, the former again mining his gift for blank-faced irony and the latter her natural, unaffected charm which looks as if she's just walked on set with no preparation. Both are supported this time by equally effortless playing from SUN Honglei 孫紅雷 (A Simple Noodle Story 三槍拍案驚奇 (2009)) and light comedienne YAO Chen 姚晨 (Love in Cosmo 搖擺ｄｅ婚約 (2010)) — whose screen chemistry was forged in the excellent TV spy drama Lurk (潜伏, 2008) — as a couple who've already been through a mismatched marriage, and who separately serve as sounding-boards for the two leads.
However, with all its cynicism — and copious talk about death — the film still walks a perilous path. Starting out like a more typical Feng comedy, with a witty "divorce ceremony" between Sun and Yao's characters that satirises New China's splashy nouveau riche set, the first hour soon seems on a dramatic hiding to nowhere as Shu's picky young air stewardess and Ge's ageing, pragmatically romantic millionaire are clearly mismatched. (He's looking for a wife, she's looking for a relationship.) Again dispensing with a traditional three-act structure in favour of two equal acts — with the second putting everything back in the blender again — Feng plays a very long dramatic game, and expects the audience to stay with him, before closing pretty much at the point where the film started.
Like the second half of the first movie, One II has sections that could easily have been tightened, and with a different cast and director the mixture would never have worked: the film has hardly any plot, most of the time the characters just sit around talking, and nothing new is revealed about the leads that wasn't shown in the first film. If there's ever a One III (as the ending of the current edition hints), the filmmakers will need to come up with something more substantial. But for the time being, the package is everything — and for most of the time works, in its quietly unconventional way.
ContactSales: Huayi Brothers, Beijing (firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com)
Theatrical release: China, 22 Dec 2010; Hong Kong, 13 Jan 2010.
Presented by Huayi Brothers Media Corporation (CN), in association with Feng Xiaogang Film Studio (CN), Emperor Classic Films (HK), Zhejiang Media Group (CN), Huayi Brothers International (CN). Executive producers: Wang Zhongjun, Albert Yeung, Wang Tongyuan. Producers: Wang Zhonglei, Feng Xiaogang.
Script: Wang Shuo, Feng Xiaogang. Photography: Lü Yue. Editor: Xiao Yang. Music: Luan Shu. Production design: Shi Haiying. Art directors: Li Yanwei, Cao Hao. Costumes: Man Lim-chung. Sound: Wu Jiang. Visual effects: Xiao Yang.
Cast: Ge You (Qin Fen), Shu Qi (Liang Xiaoxiao), Sun Honglei (Li Xiangshan), Yao Chen (Mango), Ady Ang (Xuanxuan), Liao Fan (Jianguo), Shao Bing (Li Jianqiang, Mango's boyfriend), Dou Wentao (beauty contest MC), Wang Xiwei (beauty contest queen), Zhao Baogang (beauty contest juror), Jim Le (auctioneer), Viann Zhang (actress at auction), Wu Yicong (Wu Sang), Guan Xiaotong (Chuanchuan, Li Xiangshan's daughter), Zhang Hanyu (voice-over narrator), Huang He.