Film Review: Tiny Times
Starring: Mini Yang Mi, Amber Kuo Tsai-chieh, Rhydian Vaughan, Kai Ko Chen-tung
Director: Guo Jingming
Category: IIA (Putonghua)
In 2002, Taiwanese producer Angie Chai Chih-ping saw Meteor Garden, her hugely popular miniseries about the privileged lives and loves of four young Taiwanese adults, banned by censors in the mainland for its materialistic tone and perceived worship of money.
A decade later and Chai has returned to produce Tiny Times, the film adaptation of Guo Jingming's novel about the privileged lives and loves of four young mainland adults. Directed and scripted by Guo, this flashy tale of unearned affluence - which broke the mainland's opening-day box-office record for a 2-D film - has become one of the highest grossing Chinese films of all time, and is on course to be the first of a projected tetralogy based on Guo's series.
Tiny Times also happens to be one of the worst scripted films to come out of China's mainstream cinema in recent times.
A vacuous romantic fantasy disguised as a snapshot of modern Shanghai life, this coming-of-age drama comes across as a sexless and infinitely less watchable imitation of Gossip Girl and The Devil Wears Prada.
It follows a clique of four female friends as they traverse a world of fickle relationships, obnoxious working partners and designer high heels. Mostly high heels.
Protagonist Lin Xiao (Mini Yang Mi) is a clumsy, ordinary young woman who somehow lands a job as an assistant to Gong Ming (Rhydian Vaughan), the rich, powerful and inexplicably poker-faced editor-in-chief of fashion bible Me Magazine. Lin Xiao soon puts her relationship with her boyfriend in jeopardy by accepting - again inexplicably - an expensive ring that her chauvinist boss casually offers her.
Meanwhile, Lily (Amber Kuo Tsai-chieh), the sharpest, richest and most conceited woman in the group, strives to save her romance with her equally wealthy boyfriend Gu Yuan (Kai Ko Chen-tung) as his snobbish mother seeks to marry him off to an even wealthier family.
Common sense and human decency are not strong points in this visually lavish film, whose central quartet also includes a slightly chubby semi-professional badminton player (Hsieh Yi-lin) and a wannabe designer (Taiwanese-American model Bea Hayden) with a violent, on-again-off-again boyfriend.
However, for its target audience of Chinese teenage girls, the cast of beautiful young women and handsome, metrosexual young men from both Taiwan and the mainland is probably enough to compensate for the film's borderline misogyny, awful characterisation and tensionless screenplay.
Tiny Times opens on July 25