Love Is Not Blind 失戀３３天
Contemporary romantic comedy
2011, colour, 2.35:1, 109 mins
Directed by Teng Huatao (滕華濤)
By Derek Elley
Mon, 02 January 2012, 08:00 AM (HKT)
Charming, unpretentious rom-com boosted by subtle chemistry between its leads. Asian events.
Beijing, the present day. In a shopping mall Huang Xiaoxian (Bai Baihe), a wedding planner, accidentally catches her boyfriend of seven years, Lu Ran (Guo Jingfei), kissing Feng Jiaqi (Jiao Junyan), her best friend since high school. The next day, Lu Ran calls to tell her the affaire has been going on for six months and it's best if Xiaoxian just forgets him. Jiaqi tries to apologise, but Xiaoxian is shattered by her betrayal of their friendship. At work, she and her gay colleague Wang Xiaojian (Wen Zhang) are assigned to handle the wedding of two new clients, wealthy Wei Yiran (Wang Yaoqing) and his spoilt, fussy fiancee Li Ke (Zhang Zixuan); during a planning meeting Xiaoxian passes out from the strain. Her boss, Wang (Zhang Jiayi), tries to give her some advice from his own experiences; later, Lu Ran meets Xiaoxian in person, and tells her to stop being so proud and always standing on her dignity. For the first time, Xiaoxian tries socialising with her colleagues after work but, when the demanding Li Ke calls her during the evening, she makes a blunder that imperils the company's contract. On the 16th day after being dumped by Lu Ran, Xiaoxian watches as Xiaojian deliberately humiliates him at a friend's wedding. But as the days go by, and she becomes closer to the supportive Xiaojian, she still cannot get Lu Ran out of her mind.
The considerable chemistry between actor WEN Zhang 文章 and actress BAI Baihe 白百何 in the first (and best) segment of love anthology The Law of Attraction 萬有引力 (2011) comes to delightful fruition in the rom-com Love Is Not Blind 失戀３３天 (2011), the surprise hit of the year in China. The movie also marks the commercial coming-of-age of Mainland director TENG Huatao 滕華濤, who began 10 years ago with the festival-friendly, realist street drama One Hundred... １００個⋯⋯ (2001), and then changed course with Sky of Love 愛，斷了線 (2003) (a remake of South Korean time-warp romance Ditto 동감 (2000)) and China's first all-out ghost movie, The Matrimony 心中有鬼 (2006). With its yuppie-ish, office-and-work setting in modern Beijing, Teng's fourth feature doesn't bring anything fresh to the New China rom-com in terms of characters and situations; but Teng's smooth direction and unexaggerated handling of his actors, plus a quirky script by author BAO Jingjing 鮑鯨鯨 from her own novel, ensure an engaging ride for most of the journey.
Both 27, and graduates of Beijing's Central Academy of Drama, Wen and Bai had solid groundings in TV drama before the former came to big-screen attention with his subtle playing of an autistic son in the Jet LI 李連杰 vehicle Ocean Heaven 海洋天堂 (2010). Following her movie debut in Law, as a by-the-book airport security officer, Bai makes a remarkably assured lead here, not only narrating but also appearing in every scene. Her role has traces of other chick-flick sad-sacks — from Bridget Jones to Du Lala (杜拉拉) — but she manages to make a basically self-absorbed love victim into a sympathetic character the audience is willing to follow on a journey from disappointment to self-realisation.
That journey — reflecting the script's origins in a novel from an on-line blog — is pretty episodic, as it sketches the 33 days after a young wedding planner has been dumped (as per the film's Chinese title) by a man she saw as her future husband. Bouncing off a variety of characters — her unrepentant ex, her best friend who betrayed her, her married boss, and particularly a gay work colleague — Bai's character doesn't arrive at any great self-awareness apart from realising the need to shelve her dignity and move on. Wen's gay colleague who provides emotional support is also a chick-flick cliche, but like Bai he turns it into an engaging part that doesn't rely on campy grandstanding and shows some mettle in two witty put-down scenes.
At heart, Love is basically an unpretentious charmer that doesn't, unlike some of its ilk, aggressively push a lifestyle or ask the viewer to sympathise with unlikeable people. Teng keeps the humour grounded in emotions rather than situations, and even the hoary device of on-screen text messages is sparingly used and character-driven. With a different cast and showier direction the movie may not have worked at all.
The supporting cast is fine, especially ZHANG Jiayi 張嘉譯 (the criminal in One Night in Supermarket 夜・店 (2009)) as the company boss, veteran actress CAO Cuifen 曹翠芬 (Raise the Red Lantern 大紅燈籠高高掛 (1991)) in a pivotal role near the end, Taiwan TV drama's David WANG 王耀慶 as a wealthy client of the wedding planning agency, and model ZHANG Zixuan 張子萱 making a memorable film debut as his gold-digging fiancee. Among the many cameos by medium-sized names, Wen and Bai's real-life spouses — MA Yili 馬伊琍 and CHEN Yufan 陳羽凡 — play the second break-up couple at the start of the movie.
The good news is that Bai is to reteam with Teng in his next feature, 幸福旅行團 (literally, Happy Tour Group), also written by Bao.
ContactSales: Edko Films, Hong Kong (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Theatrical release: China, 8 Nov 2011.
Presented by Perfect World (Beijing) Pictures (CN), Beijing iTime Production (CN), New Classics Entertainment (CN), Shanghai Luwen Film Studios (CN). Executive producers: Michael Chi, Teng Huatao, Wang Ziwen, Chen Xingming. Producer: Teng Huatao.
Script: Bao Jingjing, Teng Huatao. Novel: Bao Jingjing (2010). Photography: Cao Dun. Editing: Chang Yang. Music: Ding Wei, Lin Chaoyang. Art direction: Yang Zhijia. Costume design: Wang Yi, Wei He. Sound: Chen Zhiwei, Huang Jian. Visual effects: Hu Xuan (VXF).
Cast: Wen Zhang (Wang Xiaojian/Wang Yiyang), Bai Baihe (Huang Xiaoxian), Guo Jingfei (Lu Ran), Zhang Jiayi (Wang, the manager), David Wang (Wei Yiran), Zhang Zixuan (Li Ke, his fiancee), Jiao Junyan (Feng Jiaqi), Ye Qianyun (Pussycat CiCi), Liu Qin (Virtuous Sister, the office receptionist), Deng Anqi (Cantonese Guy), Hu Xuan (Xiao Ke, the designer), Cao Cuifen (Auntie Zhang Yulan), Wei Zongwan (Uncle Chen), Hai Qing (young Zhang), Liao Fan (young Chen), Li Nian (cello teacher), Zhao Yi (tough guy), Li Chen, Yao Di (first break-up couple), Chen Yufan, Ma Yili (second break-up couple), Zhang Mo, Zhang Xinyi (third break-up couple), Peng Guanying, Vivian Gan (first dream couple), Qiao Dawei, Li Xiaofeng (second dream couple), Liu Tianzuo (chubby speed-dating man), Xiao Fei (skinny speed-dating man), Liang Jingke, Ding Jialan (speed-dating women), Xu Cuicui (young woman in hospital), Ai Ru (hospital nurse), Chen Shi (coffee-shop owner), Kou Bo (waiter in club), Tie Weiguang (broker).