Friday, February 21, 2014

Beijing Love Story

Just poking around Box Office Mojo, I see that Beijing Love Story is China Lion's biggest opener in the United States since their first day-and-date release, If You Are the One 2, back on Christmas Eve 2010. Now, to give a sense of scale, that means it earned $168K debuting in the mid-30s, position-wise, but that's not bad at all for nine screens, with the one in Boston only showing it twice a day. So I guess it's not surprising that instead of seeing CL walking about Thursday being the last chance to see it in certain cities, they're adding screens, while AMC is going to be giving it a full slate of showtimes at Boston Common.

I can certainly vouch for it seeming to do better - it wasn't quite crowded at the 6pm show I saw, but there were people all around. Between this and the decent turnout The Attorney got in Revere, I must admit that I'm feeling kind of good about Asian movies in the local area (and maybe the country as a whole) right now.

I'm not quite sure I know why this one did particularly well; if I had to guess, I would note that there were a bunch of young Chinese/Chinese-American folks at this screening, so I wouldn't be shocked if the TV series this movie was spun off from had a following that came here for school and then bought tickets to a movie released in America before the pirates could really set up shop. But it's well-established that I am terrible at predicting or explaining why people go for a movie, so let's not put too much stock in that idea.

Beijing Love Story

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 20 February 2014 in AMC Boston Common #5 (first-run, DCP)

Beijing Love Story tells five overlapping stories of romance, and it could have gotten by with just three or four: Some feel like fragments just meant to tie others together, and some could use a little more fleshing out. The good news is that these segments are arranged so that the strongest are at the end, and there's something to that old saw that all's well that ends well.

We start out an impromptu bachelor party in a nightclub, where Chen Feng (Chen Sicheng) falls in love with Shen Yan (Tong Liya) at first sight, spotting the good girl out of a swarm of ladies on the make. His boss Wu Zheng (Wang Xue-bing) is habitually stepping out on his wife (Yu Nan), who decides to try it herself, eventually winding up in a hotel room with co-worker Liu Hui (Tony Leung Ka-fai). Afterward, he flies to Greece for a clandestine rendez-vous with Jia Ling (Carina Lau Ka-ling), although he does take a call from his daughter Xingyang (Nana Ou-young), telling her she can't go on a TV talent show. She does have at least one fan in Song-ge (Liu Hao-ran), although he may have to act quickly before she starts high school abroad. While that tale of first love is going on, there's also romance at the other end of life, with local busybody Mrs. Gao (Siqin Gaowa) setting Songge's grandfather "Old Wang" (Wang Qing-xiang) up with Xue Aijia (Elaine Kam), a 59-year-old beauty recently returned from America, though the real chemistry is obviously between Wang and Gao.

The film shares a name, writer/director/star Chen Sicheng, and co-star Tong Liya with a recent hit Chinese television series, although Chen and Tong played different characters in the series; it's effectively an entirely new thing. Considering that they've worked together before and recently married in real life, it's not particularly surprising that their segment can practically coast on their charm and chemistry, with a plot about Yan's wealthy ex-boyfriend trying to lure her back not particularly leading anywhere. The same goes for the segment it leads into, which lets Yu Nan be impressively heartbroken, but perhaps the most interesting thing it does is invert the feel of the nightlife by showing it through different eyes; what seemed lusty and exciting for Feng and Zheng seems kind of scuzzy and faded for Zhang Lei. It's a nice juxtaposition with some good acting, but even together, they're not a complete story.

Full review at EFC

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