China Lion // 2010 // 123 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // January 22nd, 2012
They say practice makes perfect...but I get the feeling that pretending you are an old couple for a couple weeks before you get married might be taking it a bit too far.
Qin Fen (You Ge, Legend of the Black Scorpion) and Liang Xiaoxiao (Qi Shu, The Transporter) have fallen in love after a series of interesting adventures (shown briefly in the prologue). Now Qin is ready to pop the question and does so half-jokingly in his brutally honest and rather irrupting way. Xiaoxiao kinda sorta accepts but has reservations. Qin is a lot older than she and their personalities seem to clash at the wrong moments.
After participating in a full blown divorce celebration for two friends, Qin and Xiaoxiao decide to try a trial marriage, before they actually tie the knot. At first it's a lot of fun, but when Qin throws out his back the two realize the age difference may be a real issue. What will happen if Qin becomes an invalid? Would Xiaoxiao still care for him? So he puts it to the test, by obtaining a wheelchair and pretending he's paralyzed. Xiaoxiao is not impressed. Things only get more complicated as the game continues. Is love and marriage really in the cards for these two?
If You are the One: Love & Marriage is actually a sequel to the 2008 film If You are the One, featuring the same cast and director Xiaogang Feng (Assembly). The previous film -- featuring the story of how our leads meet and fall for each other -- was a huge hit in China. So a follow-up was not unexpected.
While I've never seen the original, I had no problem getting pulled into this one, thanks in large part to the casting. You Ge plays his role perfectly. He's a middle-aged man who knows what he wants and has no trouble telling people just what he thinks. Yet he loves teasing Xiaoxiao and getting her annoyed with him. You can tell he truly cares about her, but he's also a bit insecure that such a lovely young woman could want to spend time with him. Qi Shu not only looks luminous as Xiaoxiao, but also gives her role a lot of spunk. In many ways she's a lot like Qin -- she loves to tease him right back and enjoys saying things she knows will get under his skin. Xiaoxiao simultaneously loves the way Qin dotes on her and finds it stifling. The two actors get some great dialogue in the first half of the story, which makes for some quirky highlights.
The other reason If You are the One: Love & Marriage works so well is director Xiaogang's use of his settings and camera. I had previously seen his amazing visual sense in Legend of the Black Scorpion and he show it off here again. Many of the locations are absolutely gorgeous, especially Qin's amazing house over looking a dense forest and down to the beach. He also stages two very different celebrations in the film, using a black and white color scheme for each but in vastly different ways. This ties the themes of the film together and creates a visual bookend that is fairly effective. Xiaogang tends to use slower camera moves that emphasize the film's fairly measured pace.
If You are the One: Love & Marriage isn't perfect. About halfway through, a subplot kicks in involving one of Qin's friends, which shifts the focus from its light tone to a poignant and tragic place. It's not completely out of left field, as elements of this subplot have thematic links to the main story, but there's too much time spent on it. I suspect this detour might have played better if I'd seen the first film.
China Lion gives the film a solid if unexceptional release. The standard definition 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen image is crisp and clear, a must for the amazing visuals the film presents. The Dolby 2.0 stereo mix is well balanced with an effective score that never overpowers the Mandarin dialogue. Subtitles (in English and Chinese) are clear and easy to read. Sadly, there are no extras.
I enjoyed If You are the One: Love & Marriage. The characters are interesting, and the comedy is light and fun. This isn't a quick-paced comedy, but rather one based on dry observational humor with witty asides. Those looking for farce are going to be disappointed. However, if you enjoy the cast and director's previous work, it's an easy recommendation -- even if the first film is not yet available on Region 1 DVD.
Quirky, yes. Guilty, no.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: China Lion
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Mandarin)
Running Time: 123 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated