Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Go Brother!

Part of the fun of my preferred "just in front of the moat" seats is that I'll often sit down, fiddle with my phone until the previews start, and not realize until the end of the movie that the theater actually filled in pretty well behind me, as it did here. I'm curious who and what the big draw was - I was most impressed by Zhang Zifeng but I could easily see Peng Yuchang being the sort of teen idol that pulls the young crowd in. It doesn't seem like this got the advertising that Oolong Courtyard did, but, as usual, that's from the perspective of a white guy who only finds out about most of these movies when they drop right in front of my face; for all I know, Magnum has been pushing this hard in places young Chinese-Americans would see it.

Also, half a cup of respect to them for occasionally bringing back the attached teaser - which, in the digital age, seems to mean having it actually being part of the movie's DCP files rather than a seperate file to put in the playlist. Having one made From Vegas to Macau III playing Boston seem like a bigger deal than it should have a couple years ago, and although the one on this was mostly Chinese text that I couldn't quickly pick the English out of, it looks like a new "Mr. & Mrs. ______" movie with Chapman To is coming out next month, except that I can't find anything about one and it's just been two weeks since Wong Jing's last movie. I'm curious, though, much the same way I am excited by the teasers for counterfeiting thriller Project Gutenberg. The trailer for that one doesn't give you much plot but does end with Chow Yun-fat in sunglasses lighting a cigar with a $100 bill, and I am down for that.

More than I was for this movie, although I kind of feel weird about my main complaint. It is a movie about teenagers, mostly girls, and maybe I shouldn't feel disrespected on their behalf. It feels like Shimiao should be a lot more upset about being lied to and kept in the dark, especially since this took the form of being treated badly, rather than just being grateful for her family's protective instincts. It's the sort of thing you see a lot in the sort of manga this is based off and other Chinese movies, so maybe it's just something where west and east are out of sync.

Kuai ba wo ge dai zou (Go Brother!)

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 24 August 2018 in AMC Boston Common #12 (first-run, DCP)

The line between someone being well-intentioned and protective in a sweet way and being the same in a creepy way is not always clear, especially in movies like this one, which work by making something weird into something emotional. The makers of Go Brother! are just capable enough to make one see their characters' good intentions, but not quite able to either confront or paper over how lousy their actions can be.

There's not a jury in the world that would convict Shimiao ("Wendy" Zhang Zifeng) if she murdered her brother Shifen (Peng Yuchang) - he steals her allowance, reads her diary, resets her alarm, and then, once she's running late for school, texts her to bring the backpack he forgot at home. For all that, she still covers for him when he gets in trouble at school, but when he (and their parents) once more lets him down, this time on her birthday, she wishes that she were an only child. The next morning, things are weird - Shifen is still around, but now he's the brother to Shimiao's celebrity-obsessed best friend Miaomiao (Zhao Jinmai), pulling all the same crap on her. And while she initially doesn't miss that, how she looks at things can change when she sees them from a new perspective.

Part of that is how it throws the problems in her parents' marriage, and how Shifen is aiding his parents in hiding that from Shimiao (and later Miaomiao), into sharp focus, and the attitudes in play around that rankle. She's seventeen by the time the movie really gets going, not twelve, and Shifen can't be much more than a year older than her unless high school lasts a fair amount longer in China than it does in North America. And while it's entirely possible that Shifen being trusted more than his sister(s) with this knowledge despite his acting like an immature twit is simply a reflection of the culture, one certainly not limited to China, it's one that the filmmakers seem to buy into even when they're acknowledging that there's a point where it becomes wildly impractical. They're generally clumsy talking about divorce and blended families - enough to make me wonder if this is relatively uncharted waters in that country - but the way that the filmmakers seem determined to cast Shifen as the misunderstood hero of the tale is not ideal.

Full review at EFC.

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