Starring: Ge You, Shu Qi, Sun Honglei, Yao Chen
Director: Feng Xiaogang
Category: I (Putonghua)
Since the turn of the millennium, director-writer Feng Xiaogang's movies have become bigger and glossier, but rarely better than the idiosyncratic works that made his name as one of Chinese cinema's keenest wits. Hints of the 'old' Feng were last glimpsed two years ago in If You Are the One, but there are few such glimmers in this tedious sequel, the director's once-sparkling touch seemingly replaced by a sledgehammer.
This is all the more disappointing, as the script was co-written by celebrated author Wang Shuo, whose previous collaboration with Feng, A Sigh (2000), was a milestone in both their careers. Not so for If You Are the One 2, except in terms of its huge box office success on the mainland. As this and his other 2010 hit, Aftershock, prove, Feng has his finger on the pulse of mainland movie-goers, but in the process his films have lost their edge, acumen and, to a great degree, their sense of fun.
Not that If You Are the One 2 doesn't have its moments, due largely to clever dialogue and the charismatic re-teaming of Ge You and Shu Qi. Taking up where the previous instalment left off, forty-something self-made millionaire bachelor Qin Fen (Ge) and twenty-something stewardess Liang Xiaoxiao (Shu) struggle with whether or not to become husband and wife. He wants to wed but she isn't nearly as eager, and they embark on a trial marriage in an ultra-deluxe Hainan villa that is the Chinese consumerist equivalent of the fantasy abodes in Sex and the City, minus the sex and the city.
As in part one, the opening scene best approaches vintage Feng quality. This time it's an elaborate ritual celebrating the divorce of the couple's best friends, media mogul Li Xiangshan (Sun Honglei, below right, with Ge) and Mango (Yao Chen), which has a distinctive Wang timbre in its satirical depiction of nouveau riche values.
Still, the movie seems to revel in rather than lampoon the material excess, as in a beauty pageant at a Hainan resort that is a far cry from the brilliant faux ceremony dished up by Wang and acted by Ge in The Troubleshooters (1988). The film never regains the momentum of its opening passages. Tedium sets in as the principals continually discuss love and relationships without offering fresh insights.
Matters go further south upon the discovery of one character's melanoma, followed by a memorial service that promises to be something special, as the soon-to-be-deceased is in attendance. But pretentiousness takes the upper hand, with a ceremony so protracted that one roots for the victim's accelerated demise.
It's precisely the kind of situation the filmmakers would once have gleefully torn to pieces, but they are evidently no longer the ones they once were.
If You Are The One 2 opens today