Search The Movie Bus

powered by FreeFind


Dong Jie, Dong Lihua, Zhao Benshan, Fu Biao, Leng Qibin

Directed by: Zhang Yimou
Written by: Gai Zi, Gui Zi
Produced by: Zhou Ping, Zhang Weiping, Zhao Yu
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

US: 26/07/02 UK: 27/09/02

Chinese language comedy about love and the pursuit of happiness. Middle-aged Ding Shikou visits a matchmaker to find a wife. After many duds she sends him the perfect one. Desperate to impress her, Ding promises her a far more extravagant wedding than he can afford, leading her to believe he is rich. Then desperate, to make money, Ding refurbishes an abandoned railway car on Lover's Lane and charges admission for young couples wandering by. Finally, he must come clean to his fiancée, in a heartbreaking and hilarious life lesson for all involved.


Dave Reviews Out Loud/Ebert & Roeper
Film Journal/ Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Trib/ LA Times
New York Post / New York Times
Seattle Intelligencer/

Dong Jie is err, happy.

After a series of stunningly stylish films (from Ju Dou to Not One Less) it's somewhat of a surprise that Zhang Yimou has made such a ragged, unassuming little melodrama. It's about a middle aged bachelor Zhao (Zhao Benshan) who finally finds a woman (Dong Lihua) willing to become his wife. But she's a real piece of work--larger than life in almost every way, with a pampered, lazy son (Leng Qibin) and a blind stepdaughter Wu (Dong Jie), who she scorns Cinderella style. Zhao has lied by saying he manages the Happy Times Hotel. So the woman talks Zhao into taking Wu off her hands to work in the hotel as a masseuse. Zhao and his friends build a fake hotel in an abandoned factory to try to fool Wu--certainly she can't "see" through their charade. Or can she?

The best thing about the film is the tentative and tender bond that develops between Zhao and Wu, which is very nicely played out and cleverly shaded in various ways. These two discover an unusual and unexpected happiness together in a tentative uncle-niece sort of relationship. And while the understatement is somewhat refreshing, it's also thin and underdeveloped. And more than a little unbelievable, especially as it rolls toward a conclusion that is horribly bleak and at the same time far too schmaltzy and sweet. Meanwhile, the filmmaking itself is simplistic and extremely basic, rarely offering insight into the characters or adding depth to the situations. There are all kinds of interesting themes at work here, but they seem only partially developed, which at times is nice as it lets us work out the things for ourselves and apply them to our own cultural background. On the other hand, it tells us very little about the characters themselves, their society or their relationships. So while the film does touch us lightly with its emotional resonance, it also leaves us out in the cold.


© 2001- 2004
all rights reserved
terms and conditions