The Struggle of 80’s
China, 2014, colour, 2.35:1, 92 mins.
Director: Sen Dao 森岛.
Light rural comedy falls uneasily between a youth movie, rom-com and old-style social-education film.
Minghe village, Zhejiang province, southern China, the present day. University graduate Xu Xiaoqiao (Zhang Jianing), daughter of a wealthy antique dealer (Li Hongtao), is on her way to take up the job of assistant village chief in the remote seaside community. Her father is against the move and has his assistants try to block the road. Xu Xiaoqiao breaks through but then crashes her car in the forest, where she meets a young traveller, Qi Weijie (Liu Shuailiang), who’s on his way to Minghe village with a project to build a paragliding base there. They spend the night in the forest together; next day her father unsuccessfully tries again to talk her out of taking the job and join the family firm instead. Meanwhile, Minghe village’s committee is still having trouble convincing locals to move family tombs so a road can be built to develop the economy; resistance is led by stubborn old Xu Dafa (Xu Huanshan). Committee members Huang Yiming (Yang Dong) and Zhang Shiqiang (Lou Yujian) are also vying to be elected village head at the next election, and are disquieted by the forthcoming arrival of Xu Xiaoqiao, who will also be a candidate. At a welcome dinner thrown by party secretary Old Zhi (Ma Dehua), Qi Weijie says he can’t go ahead with his project until the tombs are moved; but everyone, including Xu Xiaoqiao, doubts whether he actually has any money. He eventually confesses to her that his wealthy father (Hou Yong) is funding his project but en route he lost RMB1 million cash which fell off his bike in the forest. Xu Xiaoqiao, who’s become bored with typing up files in the office every day, says she’ll support his project if he recommends her to head the tomb-demolition unit.
Two children of wealthy entrepreneurs try to prove they can make it on their own in The Struggle of 80’s 80后的独立宣言, a light comedy set in a remote seaside village that falls uneasily between an old-style social-education film, a more modern youth movie and a wannabe rom-com. Though the central idea makes a change from the usual portrayal of so-called fu erdai 富二代 as privileged and arrogant, its realisation is often dramatically clumsy and the film seems to bundle up the fu erdai with Gen-80ers in general. The heroine’s final cry that this is “Gen-80ers’ Declaration of Independence!” (the meaning of the Chinese title), before the movie slips into an incongruous street-dance sequence, sums up the confusion.
In general, Struggle is no advance for Mainland commercial journeyman Sen Dao 森岛 after his previous outing, the conventional but promising rom-com Whoever 爱谁谁 (2012). Again, it’s the often charming performances rather than the bumpily constructed script that are more interesting, especially young leads Zhang Jianing 张佳宁 and Liu Shuailiang 刘帅良, both TV actors in their mid-/late 20s then making their film debuts in leading roles. Zhang has a bright enough presence to lead the film, despite being unbelievable as a potential village head; Liu is at his best in the early, geekier scenes, as the two first meet cute and shyly spend a night together in a forest. Several veterans provide acting ballast: Ma Dehua 马德华 as the kindly but bottom-line party secretary, Xu Huanshan 许还山 as the stubborn old villager refusing to move the family grave, and Li Hongtao 李洪涛 and Hou Yong 侯勇 as the youngsters’ wealthy fathers.
The film was shot around Cixi, near Ningbo, and makes unforced use of Zhejiang land- and townscapes. Sen’s regular crew of editor Qian Fang 钱芳, art director Yao Yibo 姚一波, music director Feng Da 冯打 and Hong Kong d.p. Fan Quanxin 范铨鑫 turn in an OK technical package. However, Struggle failed on release, grossing a paltry RMB400,000.
Presented by Zhejiang New Films Culture Communication (CN).
Script: Sen Dao, Liu Yan. Original story: Lin Jidong, Sen Dao, Yang Dong, Zhang Weiwei. Photography: Fan Quanxin. Editing: Qian Fang. Music direction: Feng Da. Art direction: Yao Yibo. Costumes: Yang Dan. Sound: Cui Yu, Sun Huabo. Executive direction: Yang Dong.
Cast: Zhang Jianing (Xu Xiaoqiao), Liu Shuailiang (Qi Weijie), Su Qing (Jinhua), Yang Dong (Huang Yiming), Ma Dehua (Old Zhi, Jinhua’s father), Lou Yujian (Zhang Shiqiang), Zhang Haotian (Han Wei, assistant to Xu Xiaoqiao’s father), Xu Huanshan (Xu Dafa), Li Hongtao (Xu Xiaoqiao’s father), Hou Yong (Qi Nianru, Qi Weijie’s father), Cao Bingkun (Li, villager), He Saifei (Luo Sujuan, Qi Weijie’s mother).
Release: China, 21 Feb 2014.