China, 2012, colour, 2.35:1, 98 mins.
Director: Zhang Qi 張琦.
Glossy, Hainan-set rom-com lacks star chemistry and a cohesive script and direction.
Beijing, the present day. On the day they spontaneously divorce after being married for less than a month, magician Tao Xiaolei (Liu Kaiwei) and air hostess Zhou Jing (Yang Mi) hear they have won a free honeymoon down in Sanya, Hainan island. Zhou Jing agrees to go, on condition they each do their own thing. At a drunken party Tao Xiaolei bumps into an ex-girlfriend, Fang Meng (Zhou Xiuna), and almost gets into a fight with a gangster type, Bao (Wang Jingchun), who also claims to be her ex. Next morning Tao Xiaolei and Fang Meng wake up in bed together, and Tao Xiaolei receives a call saying that Zhou Jing has been kidnapped and will be killed unless he pays RMB1 million within 48 hours. Tao Xiaolei calls a Beijing friend, Sun Nuo (Wang Xiao), manager of the bar at which he first met Zhou Jing, to ask for a loan, but it’s not enough. Meanwhile, Zhou Jing wakes up in a jungle treehouse in Jianfengling National Park and meets geeky botanist Bao Sanhe (Wang Jingchun), who is collecting samples. He offers to take her to safety but, when he can’t find the way out, they end up spending the night in the jungle. At the same time, Fang Meng has been introducing Tao Xiaolei to some gambling groups so he can use his card skills to win some money, but without success. Tao Xiaolei refuses to ask the help of his wealthy father, Tao Dawei (Wu Dairong), who walked out on him and his mother, but eventually is forced to call him, and his father agrees to wire the money. However, the kidnapper then gives him a further 24 hours, even though he’s ready to pay up, and just as Zhou Jing arrives back at the hotel she sees Tao Xiaolei going off with Fang Meng – the continuation of a train of events that are not what they seem.
What could have been a frothy rom-com in a glamorous setting never catches fire in Holding Love HOLD住爱. Largely of interest for its teaming of current Mainland hottie Yang Mi 杨幂 and Hong Kong TV pin-up Liu Kaiwei 刘恺威 – a real-life couple who’ve also made two TV dramas together this year (RuYi 如意, 2012, and A Clear Midsummer Night 盛夏晚晴天, 2012) – the movie starts with the promising idea of just-divorced love birds thrown together on a free holiday but gets entangled in a script that should be about two people learning how to love but instead is all over the place. Surprisingly, Yang and Liu generate minimal rom-com chemistry on the big screen: largely a TV drama star, Liu is the livelier of the two but acts in a vacuum, while Yang, showing none of her squawky verve from films like Painted Skin: The Resurrection 画皮II (2012), looks like she’s thinking of the 20 other projects she has on her schedule. To carry a picture in a lead role, Yang needs a stronger script and direction than she gets here.
The best playing comes from Wang Jingchun (the father in 11 Flowers 我11, 2011) in a double role as a gangster type and a geeky botanist, though even he becomes lost in the script’s plot pile-up in the second half. Mainland-born, Hong Kong-based glamourpuss Zhou Xiuna 周秀娜 gets little to do as a former girlfriend of Liu’s character. After an interesting start with psychodrama Help 救我 (2008), director Zhang Qi 张琦 tripped up badly with psychothriller The Devil Inside Me 夺命心跳 (2011) and shows no feel for rom-com timing or script construction here. Glossy photography by Hong Kong’s Zhang Xuewen 张学文 (The Devil Inside Me) of locations around trendy Sanya on tropical Hainan island – used for If You Are the One II 非诚勿扰II (2010) – earns the film an extra point. The movie’s original title incorporates a Chinglish catchphrase that roughly means “holding onto”, as in keeping control of a situation – something Holding Love rarely does.
Presented by Wanda Media (CN), Guangzhou Jinyi Media (CN), Dadi Century Film Distribution (CN). Produced by Wanda Media (CN).
Script: Zhang Qi, Huang Wei, Zhao Ben. Photography: Zhang Xuewen. Editing: Zhang Jia. Theme song: Lin Junjie. Art direction: Wu Zhen. Costumes: Ren Moting. Sound: Li Anlei, Jiang Jianqiang.
Cast: Yang Mi (Zhou Jing), Liu Kaiwei (Tao Xiaolei), Zhou Xiuna (Fang Meng, Tao Xiaolei’s former girlfriend), Wang Jingchun (Bao; Bao Sanhe), Wang Xiao (Sun Nuo), Zhang Qi (Hong), Wu Dairong (Tao Dawei, Tao Xiaolei’s father), Feng Pengshu (Flower Shirt), Randy Liu (bald taxi driver), Zhang Yifan (pretty guide), Wei Meng (hotel receptionist), Zhang Haiyan (divorce official), Li Yang (Mazai), Da Lang (Fattie), Sun Qiaoshan (bald guy), Feng Fuhai, Sun Haotian, Zhang Liang, Guan Peng, Dong Zhenzhen, Xu Tong, Yang Shuya, Sun Fei, Zhang Yunchao, Zhang Guibo, Song Shuxin, Wang Jiang, Chen Ming, He Yujun, Zhang Ziwen, Fang Dong, Lv Kai.
Release: China, 23 Aug 2012.
(Review originally published on Film Business Asia, 14 Sep 2012.)