China, 2012, colour, 2.35:1, 92 mins.
Director: Sen Dao 森岛.
Average, male-centred rom-com finally finds an emotional centre in its final lap.
A seaside city in China, the present day. Li Shimin (Fang Zuming), VIP manager at Angel Pet Hospital, arranges a boozy night out with his two pals – the hospital’s boss, Gao Renjie (Zhao Qing), and its chief vet, Mei Xiaoyang (Lin Jidong) – plus some girls. Mei Xiaoyang ends up going back with Dong Hua (Xing Shan), a recent client at the hospital; Li Shimin, originally attracted to Dong Hua, ends up with Baibai (Shen Taoran), who’s sick on his carpet and passes out; and Gao Renjie ends up having sex the next morning with Baibai’s best friend, Yawen (Jang Na-ra). Li Shimin twice gets Mei Xiaoyang off the hook when the latter’s live-in fiancee, Han Wanting (Fan Wenfang), suspects him; and Gao Renjie’s wife, accountant Li Jiji (Shi Lin), initially swallows his story of an all-night meeting. Yawen falls for Gao Renjie, though she promises not to make trouble with his wife. Meanwhile, Baibai courts Li Shimin but the latter seems girl-shy.
A very average rom-com that develops some touching moments in its final lap, Whoever 爱谁谁 marks a modest step-up by Mainland independent writer-director Sen Dao 森岛 after a decade of jobbing work in Greater China. Starting off as a routine comedy about three pals and their women problems after a boozy night out, the film finally finds an emotional centre in the story of the married one who almost sacrifices his marriage. Until then it’s been a standard, male-centred light comedy in which one of the trio keeps getting his friends out of tight corners with ever-more inventive lies. Very non-judgmental to that point, the movie finally opts for a conventional (but effective) happy ending.
Much of the film’s success is due to the simpatico playing by Taiwan-born TV actor Zhao Qing 赵擎 and Mainland TV actress Shi Lin 石琳 as the husband and wife, who manage to make even the cute script idea of him carrying her out of the house every day seem not too corny. Other performances are also entertaining, especially Shen Taoran 沈陶然 as a perky little rich girl and (more briefly) Singapore’s Fan Wenfang 范文芳 [Fann Wong] as a suspicious live-in fiancee. South Korea’s Jang Na-ra 장나라 | 张娜拉 – then trying to break into Mainland cinema (Flying with You 一起飞, 2012) after success in TV dramas – melds better with the cast than many of her compatriots but her character is still lightweight. However, she’s way better than Hong Kong’s Fang Zuming 房祖名 [Jaycee Chan], here especially miscast as the virginal fixer-friend. Having zero chemistry with both Zhao and fellow TV actor-producer Lin Jidong 林继东 as the hopeless other pal, and with much less acting technique than either, Fang is the movie’s embarrassing handicap.
Technically, the film is OK without being standout in any way, with pleasant scoring by music director Feng Da 冯达 and ditto photography by Hong Kong genre veteran Fan Quanxin 范铨鑫 of the seaside city of Qingdao, northern China. (Though the story seems to be set in Zhejiang, southern China, location shooting was up in Qingdao.) A novel by Sen, under the same title, was published three months before the film’s release (see cover, left). The Chinese title is a northern phrase meaning “whatever” or “up to you”.
Presented by Zhejiang New Film Times Culture & Media (CN), Beijing Costar Culture & Media (CN). Produced by Sen Dao Film Workshop (CN), Qingdao Hualong Sanguan Film & TV Shooting Base (CN), Qingdao Xingyuan Property Group (CN), Beijing Shengshi Qilin Media (CN).
Script: Sen Dao. Photography: Fan Quanxin. Editing: Qian Fang, Ma Yanyan. Music direction: Feng Da. Art direction: Yao Yibo. Styling: Quan Quan. Sound: Chen Zhifu, Cui Yu. Executive direction: Zhang Tengfei.
Cast: Zhao Qing (Gao Renjie), Fang Zuming [Jaycee Chan] (Li Shimin), Lin Jidong (Mei Xiaoyang), Shi Lin (Li Jiji), Shen Taoran (Baibai), Xing Shan (Dong Hua), Jang Na-ra (Yawen), Fan Wenfang [Fann Wong] (Han Wanting), Xu Chunhua (Dennis, Han Wanting’s co-presenter), Li Sha (nurse tearing paper), Liu Bing (Li Boting, Li Jiji’s father), Zhang Liyong (Gao Pan, Gao Renjie’s father), Zeng Yongjun (Li Jiji’s mother), Qiu Yangxin (Niuniu, nurse), Zhou Bin (commercials director), Wang Yaoyao (DJ), Chen Yan (traffic policeman), Zhang Tianxiao (civil affairs bureau clerk).
Release: China, 9 Nov 2012.