Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Ai (Love)

I see that this is getting another week at Boston Common with a full slate of shows, which I suspect means it's doing pretty well for China Lion. My completely unscientific reading of the crowd has it as pretty good - even for three weeks after the movie opened in the Far East, where the bootlegging is fast and not stigmatized at all - leading to the secondary conclusion that Chinese people really dig Jason Statham's co-star in The Transporter.

Shu Qi is a great big star in China/Hong Kong/Taiwan, right? It certainly seems to me like she is, but it's not like I've got a huge sample size to work with here. She should be, at least - she's crazy beautiful and acquits herself well on screen. And she's only drunk for one brief scene this time! Of course, I suppose China Lion might be choosing to bring movies with her over because she was in The Transporter and therefore has something like ten times the marketability of other Chinese actresses - I mean, Fan Bingbing is pretty too, but what do you put in parentheses after her name to remind American audiences where they've seen her before?

It's worth noting that China Lion seems to have made their release patterns a bit more flexible - previously, it seems as if things would open sort-of nationally and never really expand, whereas both The Viral Factor and Love have opened in new markets after playing others. It also seems like they're going to be doing it less blind than they were - there have been a few tweets from their account lately asking what people think of trailers, maybe trying to get a handle on what will play well and what won't before setting the schedule.

Ai (Love)

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 3 March 2012 in AMC Boston Common #3 (first-run, DLP)

Love is exactly the sort of movie that gets released for Valentine's Day, which is when it showed up in Taiwan and a few larger American cities. It's not a classic romance, but it sets the mood well, being full of good-looking people whose intersecting stories are fairly likely to work out in the end.

It opens with a positive pregnancy test for Taiwanese student Li Yijia (Chen Yi-han) and a tryst between mid-level executive Mark Na ("Mark" Zhao Youting) and his boss's famous-for-being-famous girlfriend Zoe Fang (Shu Qi) that Mark backs out from. From there, the three go their separate directions: Mark goes to look at a house in Beijing, where realtor Jin Xia-Ye (Zhao Wei) gets him into a couple of sticky situations; Yijia breaks the news to Kai (Eddie Peng), the boyfriend of her best friend Ni (Amber Kuo); and a fight with her boyfriend Lu (Doze Niu Chen-zer) leads to Zoe meeting up with Kuan (Juan Ching-tien), who is considerate and hard-working, even if he does have a bad stammer.

Kuan also happens to be Yijia's brother, and there are other connections between the various characters that actually make it a little odd that the Yijia/Kai/Ni and Zoe/Kuan/Lu stories aren't tied together even more closely than they are. It still makes the Mark/Ye thread seem comparatively isolated story-wise as well as geographically, though a closer connection might be a little more coincidence than the audience can take. The individual stories each have an issue or two - much of the second half of Ye's and Mark's is built on a silly and needlessly maintained lie, for instance, while Yijia, Kai, and Ni don't really do or say very much to resolve their situation - but the stories are big enough to matter but not really enough to carry a feature on their own.

Full review at EFC.

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