Mr Pride and Miss Prejudice
China, 2017, colour, 2.35:1, 108 mins.
Directors: Li Haishu 李海蜀, Huang Yanwei 黄彦威.
A fluffy but engaging rom-com, thanks to a spirited lead by Uyghur actress Dilraba Dilmurat.
Beijing, the present day, October. Zhu Hou (Zhang Yunlong) has arranged a surprise engagement ritual in a mall for his girlfriend Mo Mo (Jin Chen), whom he met when they were both studying in Canada, but by mistake Tang Nannan (Dilraba Dilmurat), who’s wearing the same dress, steps into it instead. In the chaos, Zhu Hou ends up skewering his backside and Tang Nannan’s pollen allergy breaks out due to all the flowers. Her face swollen, she tracks him down in hospital and demands RMB24,000 in damages; as they fight, Zhu Hou loses his wallet when it falls out of the window. Mo Mo arrives and says she wants to break up with Zhu Hou, as he’s just a spoiled fuerdai who needs to grow up; but she settles his debt with Tang Nannan. A few days later Tang Nannan sees Zhu Hou on the street; he’s now a peniless beggar as the hospital kicked him out for non-payment of his bill and he can’t get back into his luxury flat because (a) he has a problem with remmebering more than three numbers and (b) his best friend, Xiao Jianjun (Gao Weiguang), is away in Brazil. She takes him back to her flat for a meal and reluctantly lets him stay for a few days. An online serial writer who’s always being nagged by her editor (Fan Tiantian), Tang Nannan finds it difficult to work with Zhu Hou always around, and a month later he’s still in her flat. When she loans him a bank card with RMB20,000 savings on it, he spends it all, leaving them both broke. After making some cash scamming rich car-owners, they spend it all getting drunk at a nightclub. After Tang Nannan is evicted from her flat, they manage to force their way into Zhu Hou’s luxury apartment, where they find Xiao Jianjun. And then, as the three spend time together, Xiao Jianjun starts romancing Tang Nannan.
A candy-coloured piece of fluff with a pratfall heroine romanced by two metrosexual rich boys, Mr Pride and Miss Prejudice 傲娇与偏见 is in the vein of cartoony chick-flicks like Sophie’s Revenge 非常幸运 (2009) but, in its spirited physical comedy by lead actress Dilraba Dilmurat 迪丽热巴, also evokes other female-centred comedies like The Truth about Beauty 整容日记 (2014), with its game performance by Bai Baihe 白百合 as a cosmetic-surgery junkie. Either way, the film is a terrific platform for the Uyghur-minority TV actress, in her first leading film role after playing the replacement girlfriend in glossy romance Fall in Love like a Star 怦然星动 (2015), starring actress Yang Mi 杨幂. Shot in late 2015, it’s waited some time for a Mainland release but in two weeks has grossed a credible RMB120 million.
With looks that can switch from arched-eyebrows-sad to fearsomely determined, Dilmurat, 24, has more personality than both her male co-leads together – Zhang Yunlong 张云龙, 29, as a spoiled fuerdai who parachutes into her life, and Gao Weiguang 高伟光, 34, as his equally rich best pal. Though they’re OK on screen together, there’s no special chemistry between Dilmurat and Zhang; but the target girly audience won’t care much about that, and it’s the packaging that really counts anyway. (Dilmurat and Zhang already made two TVDs together, and they and Gao are all clients of Yang’s agency, Jaywalk.)
Based on an online novel, published in 2013, by Jilin-born writer Meimei Mao 媚媚猫 (pen name of Meng Likui 孟丽魁), the film is driven more by com than rom elements, with physical setpieces that don’t advance the plot much (a chaotic sequence in a theatre, or the dinner with a former boyfriend and his current wife). But Dilmurat, a former dance student, is game for all the physical comedy and, unlike Zhang Ziyi 章子怡 in Sophie’s Revenge, is capable of building a sympathetic character alongside it. So, by the time the rom element surfaces with a finale in scenic Verona, Italy – home of Romeo and Juliet, yay! – there’s enough goodwill built up for the finale to work in a corny way.
Direction by the writer-director team of Li Haishu 李海蜀 and Huang Yanwei 黄彦威 – Li in her second directorial outing after the Xu Zheng 徐峥 comedy Meet the In-Laws 搞定岳父大人 (2012), Huang also in his second after TVD The Boss Is Coming 老板来了 (2016) – is slightly manga-like, underlining its semi-fantastic plot, but not excessively so. Styling and design by Kong Lingyuan 孔令媛 and Lu Wei 鲁伟 is all chocolate-box colours, though again not in an overdone way, and widescreen photography by Hong Kong’s Chen Chuqiang 陈楚强 (Call of Heroes 危城, 2016) is similarly controlled. Editing supervised by Hong Kong veteran Zhang Jiahui 张嘉辉 [Cheung Ka-fai] is slick enough.
Among the supporting cast of Mainland character actors and personalities (presenters Fan Tiantian 范湉湉 as a screamy editor, Ma Weiwei 马薇薇 as a snooty one), veteran Hong Kong actress Zhou Haimei 周海媚 [Kathy Chow], now in her early 50s, pops up in an elegant cameo as the hero’s mother near the end.
The curious-sounding Chinese title is an elaborate pun that not only evokes the Chinese for Pride and Prejudice 傲慢与偏见 but also plays on the similarity between jiàn 见 and jiāo 娇 with jiān 尖 and jiāo 椒, referring to the heroine’s sharply peppery 尖椒 personality. The English title is often wrongly given as Mr Pride vs Miss Prejudice; but on the film itself it is clearly “and”, not “vs”.
Presented by Beijing Asian Union Culture Media Investment (CN), Khorgos Jaywalk Film & Media (CN), iQiyi Motion Pictures (CN), Beijing Joy Jaywalk Film & Media (CN).
Script: Li Haishu, Huang Yanwei, Meimei Mao, Zhang Xiujie, Han Rui, Ma Yuehong. Online novel: Meimei Mao. Photography: Chen Chuqiang. Editing: Zhang Jiahui [Cheung Ka-fai], Yan Tingting. Art direction: Lu Wei. Styling: Kong Lingyuan. Sound: Huang Zheng. Action: Sang Lin. Visual effects: Zhang Sheng, Zhang Zhuo (Forestt Studios).
Cast: Dilraba Dilmurat (Tang Nannan), Zhang Yunlong (Zhu Hou), Gao Weiguang (Xiao Jianjun), Jin Chen (Mo Mo, Zhu Hou’s girlfriend), Ma Weiwei (Ma Weiwei, celebrity editor), Fan Tiantian (Da Tiantian, Tang Nannan’s editor), Mike D. Angelo [Pirath Nitipaisankul] (Jiang Hai), Zhou Haimei [Kathy Chow] (Zhu Hou’s mother), Li Yu (engagement ritual co-ordinator), Fan Ye.
Premiere: China Britain Film Festival, London, Jun 2016.
Release: China, 20 Apr 2017.