Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Last Woman Standing

There's an obvious joke to be made about how China Lion has been pushing The Last Women Standing on social media as a "Singles Day" release despite the fact that nearly every image used to advertise it shows star Shu Qi in a wedding dress, but it turns out that for a romantic comedy/drama, it actually has no trouble with letting Shu Qi's Sheng Ruxi be happily single while mostly avoiding portraying a lack of romance as a void in her life. In a lot of ways, that was a lot more than I could have hoped for.

On the other hand, "Singles Day" is apparently less an actual celebration in China than a canny retail promotion designed to capture the spending money of people who, not being in a relationship, are not buying roses, chocolates, jewelry, etc., by getting them to buy stuff for themselves, with it being at the other end of the year on a date filled with ones (11/11) making it seem amusing rather than desperate. It's also apparently huge, as in almost seven billion dollars spent in China yesterday, comparable to the "Black Friday" binges that are often held out as the worst examples of American consumerism.

Anyway, the thing I write about in the review about having "Shu Qi is beautiful" running through my head on a loop is absolutely true, and actually surprised me a bit. I've liked her in a lot of stuff, and remember when Millennium Mambo played at the Brattle as part of their Eye Opener series that her beauty was described as one of the directors' primary inspirations, but this was the first time she really made enough of an impression on me both in terms of looking good and having the right personality on screen to give it a real boost.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to find out what she's got streaming on Amazon right now...

Sheng Zhe Wei Wang (The Last Woman Standing)

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 11 November 2015 in AMC Boston Common #12 (first-run, DCP)

I am tempted, half as a joke and half dead serious, to write this review as six paragraphs of "Shu Qi is extremely pretty", maybe with a different adjective or adverb swapped in every once in a while for variety. I do not do so less because it sells the film short than it does the actress. She is, after all, more than just a pretty face, but it's getting to spend an hour and a half watching her that lifts this particular film from a barely-outlined romantic drama to a fairly pleasant experience.

She plays Sheng Ruxi, a thirty-year-old Shanghai businesswoman who is kind of sick of hearing her mother (Pan Hong) make comments about her not being married, to the extent of walking out of a Valentine's Day wedding reception to go back to the office, where her boss Wang Lan (Hao Lei) is making plans for her own wedding. Ruxi's mother's latest attempt to fix her up is Dr. Bai (Xing Jiadong), a nice but bland-seeming guy in his mid-forties. More interesting: Ma Sai (Eddie Peng Yuyan), the new guy at the office who is paired off with her a lot, though he is five years younger.

There's a refreshing lack of rationalization to why a woman with as much going for her as Ruxi - no makeover is necessary to show she's very attractive, she's not hung up on some former boyfriend, she's not work-obsessed or mean or weird or otherwise off-putting. No, she's just not out actively seeking romance or marriage, and while that's obviously an attitude that her mother can barely understand, it's one that the film commits to in a way that would seem anathema to most romances: Falling in love is just one potential part of Ruxi's life, and it will be great when it happens, but it is not going to be the driving priority behind her decisions until it deserves to be.

Full review on EFC.

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