I really struggled whether to put this one on the list. Half-way through watching it I thought it would be a shoo-in, but somewhere along the line I fell a little out of love with it – so it became worthy of an entry, but not quite making the list.
This is something quite unusual for me to talk about. A Chinese Rom-Com.
The Star (and co-producer) of “Sophie’s Revenge” is probably the most well know Chinese actress to us Westerners – Zhang Ziyi. You’ll know her from the well distributed hits “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Hero” and “House of Flying Daggers”. She was also the main star of “Memoirs of a Geisha”. So lots of big films – but to be honest they all left me cold, and won’t be appearing on this list. Their failure is nothing to do with Zhang Ziyi herself – they were all beautiful, but emotionally they did nothing for me.
However, she does have an on-screen persona that appears quite haughty, reserved and distanced. So the first thing that makes this film so interesting is that she is able to play a character that is understandable, funny, friendly and interesting. She really is the star of the film in every sense.
The second winning aspect of the film to me is its imagination. It uses all sorts of tricks such as on screen animations to bring alive this world, and it is utterly charming.
The film itself – well I suppose you could call it a Chinese “Sex in the City”. It is based in a very cosmopolitan Beijing, which is quite an unusual step – other than the characters speaking Mandarin, this could be set in any major city on the planet. I don’t think the film loses anything for this – it makes a change for a Chinese film not to rely so much on its past.
This is the story of Sophie, a young 20-something, who loses her boyfriend to a film star, Anna (played by the radiant Fan Bingbing), and her attempts to win him back (although with a nasty revenge-driven twist). She is aided in this (somewhat reluctantly) by Anna’s ex-boyfriend. The biggest problem is that just by writing this synopsis you know EXACTLY what is going to happen over the next 2 hours.
The first 80 or so minutes of the film are to me a complete delight, it is funny (even if the subtitles struggle to keep up with the dialogue), beautiful to look at and, well, simply charming.
However, the final act of the film is a let down to me. The director/writer Jin Yimeng is so close to capturing the proverbial lightening in a bottle, but the ending seems damp to me. Not because it is predictable (that is par for the genre course), but because all the imagination and fun are missing.
Definitely worth checking out if you get a chance, but in the final analysis – a good film, that could have been great, and that final hurdle is what stops it getting its’ own number on this list.