La Historia du un Amor
China, 2017, colour, 2.35:1, 92 mins.
Directors: Qian Jianghan 钱江汉, Huang Zhiwei 黄志伟.
Odd-couple rom-com has a manufactured feel but is a pleasant enough time-waster.
Shenzhen, southern China, the present day. At a premiere, actress Liang Danni (Rayza) mistakes a chauffeur, Li Feifan (Zheng Kai), for an important film figure and exchanges phone numbers with him. Later that evening, Li Feifan ends up in her hotel room when she drunkenly summons him in mistake for her lover, Shi Feifan (Guo Xiaodong), who has the same given name. The incident ends up in the tabloid media. Shi Feifan is divorced from his wife, Lu Yijing (Yin Tao), but they still live together for appearances’ sake and have a young daughter, Feifei (Xu Jiewen). Liang Danni wants to publically admit her love for Shi Feifan but he is still cautious as his wife is a powerful businesswoman, head of the Lu Group. He asks Liang Danni to trust him to solve the problem. He and Liang Danni’s agent, Leo (Zhan Ruiwen), kidnap Li Feifan and pay him RMB12,000 to pretend to be Liang Danni’s boyfriend at an explanatory press conference, creating a false identity for him as a scriptwriter, Li Keqin, whom she met in the US. However, the plan goes wrong during the press conference when Liang Danni, in a burst of spite against Shi Feifan, announces she and “Li Keqin” are already living together and thinking of marrying. In exchange for RMB500,000, Li Feifan agrees to continue the charade for another 24 hours and moves in with Liang Danni. She, however, can’t stand him, and locks him outside on the balcony.
A chauffeur and an actress get thrown together when he’s paid to pretend to be her boyfriend in La Historia du un Amor 临时演员, an odd-couple rom-com that takes a while to get to the point but sails along fairly smoothly thereafter. Though the script – credited to no less than six writers, none with much of a track record – has a completely manufactured feel, the film gets by on the chemistry between its two leads, with Zheng Kai 郑恺 dialling down his usually cocky act to acceptable levels and, in her first lead role, Beijing-born Kazakh actress Rayza 热依扎 equally good at the soft and hard sides of her actress character. The pleasant enough time-waster made a weedy impression (RMB13 million) at the local box office.
Starting off with the main male character kidnapped, and then flashing back for 20 minutes to show how he got there, the film takes a while to establish its main plot, throwing together a wannabe who’s marking time as a chauffeur with an ambitious and very temperamental actress. After a further 20 minutes it finally shows its hand as an odd-couple rom-com when the two are forced to cohabit for publicity’s sake – at which time the sparring duo actually start to get on. The film is often at its best when the two characters are just wasting time together, arguing, or having fun, rather than in scenes that progress the artificial plot. Now 31, Zheng has started to smooth some of the hard edges off his screen persona, while Rayza, also 31, shows a range that’s already been demonstrated in supporting roles (the perky girlfriend in Somewhere Only We Know 有一个地方只有我们知道, 2015; spoilt grand-daughter in The New Year’s Eve of Old Lee 过年好, 2016; honest work colleague in Never Said Goodbye 谎言西西里, 2016).
Other performances, by Guo Xiaodong 郭晓东 and Yin Tao 殷桃 as the actress’ real lover and his hard-arsed ex-wife, are solid, while various Hong Kongers pop up here and there: Lin Baoyi 林保怡 [Bowie Lam] as one of the chauffeur’s clients, Lin Xue 林雪 [Lam Suet] in a bizarre role as the chauffeur’s stall-owning grand-uncle, and Zhan Ruiwen 詹瑞文 [Jim Chim] as the actress’ screamingly gay agent.
Shot in 2015, and originally to have been released late that year, the film is the second Mainland outing, after the very original black comedy Mortician 临终囧事 (2013), by Hong Kong’s Qian Jianghan 钱江汉, a longtime assistant director who’s also made some local comedy-horrors. Historia isn’t in the same league as Mortician but, as with that earlier film, Qian has quite a few Hong Kongers among his key crew: direction by him and Huang Zhiwei 黄志伟 looks good thanks to the lightly glossy images of Shenzhen by d.p. Xu Renzhi 徐仁志 and tight editing by the experienced Zhang Jiahui 张嘉辉 [Cheung Ka-fai]. Some of their and the cast’s work, however, is undercut by the unsuitable use of songs, rather than a proper score, as a soundtrack. The Spanish title (actually spelt wrongly) serves no obvious purpose; the Chinese one means “The Extra”, referring to Zheng’s role as a hired actor.
Presented by Film Aeon (CN).
Script: Tan Cheng, Li Yang, Xia Ran, Liu Yifei, Yao Rui, Chen Weiguo. Photography: Xu Renzhi. Editing: Zhang Jiahui [Cheung Ka-fai]. Music: Luo Jian [Lincoln Lo]. Art direction: Mo Shaoqi. Styling: Huang Wei, Zeng Xiaoruo. Sound: Feng Jun, Jin Zi, Yuan Mingzhi. Action: Yang Chongyu. Visual effects: Wang Xianliang (FX Free Productions).
Cast: Zheng Kai (Li Feifan), Rayza (Liang Danni), Guo Xiaodong (Shi Feifan), Zhan Ruiwen [Jim Chim] (Leo), Cao Yang (private detective), Yin Tao (Lu Yijing), Lin Xue [Lam Suet] (Li Qingzhao), Lin Baoyi (Bowie), Xu Jiewen (Feifei), Hao Zheng (Zixia, Leo’s assistant), Liu Siyan (Guo Tingting), Xu Zhixiong (Guo Tingting’s manager), Yang Haiyan (Ferrari girl), Mo Shaoqi (commercial director), Sun Shaoqiang, Li Jinhui, Song Yang, Qian Yundi, Lu Zhanyu, Zhou Ruifeng.
Release: China, 27 May 2017.