Saturday, October 10, 2015

Goodbye Mr. Loser

How popular are the first weekends of Chinese movies getting to be in Boston? Last night, I looked at the start/running time of Goodbye Mr. Loser, figured I wouldn't be able to get back before the 9:30pm screening in Davis I wanted to catch, and said, fine, I'll catch something earlier. Both The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials and 99 Homes were cancelled, though - apparently so that Goodbye Mr. Loser could show on three screens. Three! And though the 7pm one I had originally considered had sold out, there was one at 6:30, which wound up well-attended.

Crazy, isn't it? The promotion was talking about this dethroning Lost in Hong Kong at the box office in China, but it actually looks like it could have a bigger weekend than that one here.

It's pretty funny in general, too - I don't know how strongly I'd recommend it to folks who don't often hit foreign films, because you probably can find something similar that takes place in American and is in English and thus doesn't have the same language and cultural barriers to the jokes. Been a while since I've seen one done this well, though.

Xia Luo Te Fan Nao (Goodbye Mr. Loser)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 9 October 2015 in AMC Boston Common #12 (first-run, DCP)

As near as I can tell, no character is played by multiple actors in Goodbye Mr. Loser despite the bulk of the movie showing these middle-aged characters back in high school, and the fact that the filmmakers figure that this is a potential positive gives you a hint of what wavelength the movie is on. It's a screwy comic fantasy, and only falters when it starts to get sentimental.

It starts with Xia Luo (Shen Teng) coming to the wedding of his still-gorgeous high-school crush Qiu Ya (Wang Zhi) with the intent of looking so cool that she'll wonder what she missed out on before he disappears again, only for it to go quite differently, as his wife Ma Dongmei (Ma Li) winds up chasing him with a knife. He ducks into the bathroom, but when he comes back out, it's 1997 and he's in his old high school. And while he's still causing commotion, he's going to make sure things are different as he pursues Qiu Ya and records every hit Mando-pop song of the last eighteen years before the original artists.

This being a large plot point should serve as a reminder to any non-Chinese audiences watching the movie that this sort of "nostalgia comedy" can be a lot less funny without the proper frame of reference; I've got no idea whether the crowd was laughing with familiarity whenever a song came on the soundtrack or if filmmakers Yan Fei & Peng Da-mo were doing something particularly subversive by using those particular songs. The subtitles are pretty funny on some, though, making me wonder if they are original for the film. Fortunately, the film is not particularly close to reliant on knowledge of the pop culture of 1997 China; being back in high school and knowing the future is more important than the specifics of the past.

Full review on EFC.

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