Love is a romantic comedy-drama involving four couples. Vince Vaughn is nowhere in sight, so you know it can’t be a Valentine’s Day offering from the Western world.
It tries though. It tries.
Based loosely on the 2003 British comedy Love Actually, the Chinese film is a tangled web of heartstrings involving an ambitious would-be filmmaker, a beautiful movie star and her swain, a moonstruck waiter, along with a handsome businessman and a single mother.
All the couples are youthful and slender. And their problems, romance-movie formula stuff. Mark (Mark Chao) runs into a fractious single mom, Jin Xiaoye (Zhao Wei) in Beijing. They meet cute, as they say in Hollywood, with Mark giving Jin a boost over a fence. She falls, breaks a leg. His fault, she claims. Later, they’re officially introduced at a celebration and come out of their corners fighting, surprising all in attendance.
Mark reluctantly helps mom out of a jam, pretending to be her husband to coax a little boy from a tree. The kid doesn’t believe they’re married however. “Kiss her to prove it,” he tells Mark.
The businessman goes along with the charade. The kid still doesn’t buy it. “Kiss her like they do on TV,” he insists.
Cue the soundtrack, a lightly strummed guitar. Mark and Jin kiss and are at once rapturously smitten.
The scene serves as a neat summary of Love, as every love story here is very much like they do it on Western TV and in movies.
And just like in Hollywood films, where love stories are so interested in better homes and gardens that you could sometimes swear they were made by real-estate agents, Love is very much an upscale lifestyle experience.
Characters traipse in and out of luxurious apartments and homes. And everyone is working out – running, cycling, bowling. Spending money, too.
At one point, the movie star (Shu Qi) and her filthy rich fiancé (Doze Niu) are at a sumptuous eatery. “Blind taste test,” he announces, introducing the wine, “Five bottles are 1982 Bordeaux – two are Right Bank and three are Left Bank, that’s all I can say. Loser pays the bill.”
Someone then walks in and harrumphs, “You know how many African villagers can live on the bill you pay tonight?”
Bourgeois guilt! Yes, China is really turning into a middle-class country.
China’s film audiences are mad for film romance, apparently. This coming year will see the release of Hundred Percent Kiss, I Do, Love in the Buff, Love Lifting, Marry a Perfect Man, Repeat, I Love You and Romancing in Thin Air.
Vince Vaughn’s agent should note that the country already has its own romcom stars – although they’re not all necessarily homegrown. Mark Chao is a Taiwanese-Canadian actor who graduated from the University of Victoria.
- Directed by Doze Niu
- Written by Doze Niu and Li-ting Tseng
- Starring Shu Qi, Zhao Wei, Mark Chao, Eddie Peng, and Doze Niu
- Classification: PG
Special to The Globe and Mail