My Ex-Wife’s Wedding
China/Hong Kong/South Korea, 2010, colour, 1.85:1, 93 mins.
Director: Li Gongle 李公乐 [Lee Kung-lok].
Fluffy Beijing rom-com substitutes frantic technique for emotional substance.
Beijing, the present day. Almost two years ago, Ma Yong (Chen Kun) had married Yu Xiaohong (Yuan Quan) and initially they had been blissfully happy: he was from a wealthy family and she liked buying shoes. Then, 200 days into the marriage, Ma Yong had been given money by his father to start a wedding-event business; 400 days in, the marriage had started hitting the rocks, as Ma Yong was always tired from running the business; 500 days in, after a big row, Ma Yong and Yu Xiaohong had returned their rings to each other and got divorced. Now, Ma Yong has taken up with his business partner, glamorous Zhao Hui (Debbie Goh), much to the chagrin of Yu Xiaohong, who still keeps coming round to see him. To get his ex-wife off his back, he arranges for business colleague Zhang Qi (Lu Yi) to date her, but the tie between Ma Yong and his ex-wife is not so easy to break.
The perils of the Mainland’s current rom-com boom are strikingly shown by My Ex-Wife’s Wedding 跟我的前夫谈恋爱 which – if the difficulties of getting the formula right in cinema’s most difficult genre were not enough – tries to blend talent from three separate territories (Hong Kong, China and, on the development side, South Korea) into a single pie. Apart from Malaysian-born, Hong Kong-based Wu Tianyu 吴天瑜 [Debbie Goh] (Champions 夺标, 2008), who fits okay in a glamorous supporting role, the on-screen talent is at least dominated by Mainland actors. But the behind-camera team is largely from Hong Kong, and its idea of romantic comedy is simply to load in as much pratfall comedy and tricky photography as possible, along with editing by Hong Kong’s Wei Shufen 韦淑芬 that cannot stay still for a second.
Apart from Wu and supporting male lead Lu Yi 陆毅, who’s regularly worked with both Hong Kong and Mainland directors, the purely Mainland cast, led by Chen Kun 陈坤 and Yuan Quan 袁泉, simply isn’t up to the demands of this kind of direction. Chen’s pretty-boy looks and limited range are more suited to moody melodrama and Yuan’s fragile charm and spacey demeanour require more careful handling than Hong Kong’s Li Gongle 李公乐[Lee Kung-lok] (My Mother Is a Belly Dancer 师奶唔易做, 2006) can muster. However, the main problem is the screenplay which, after a promisingly upbeat and glossy start in which the main couple’s marital breakdown is sketched, doesn’t generate enough interesting emotional development for the audience to become engaged in the characters’ fates. The 2009 novel by Mainland writer Li Wei was previously made into a 22-part TV drama, Love with My Former Wife, 2009, directed by Qi Jian 戚健, starring actor Geng Le 耿乐 and actress Song Jia 宋佳, aka Xiao Song Jia 小宋佳. With little on-screen sexual chemistry between Chen and Yuan in the first place, this reverse romance – as in another recent rom-com failure, You Deserve to Be Single 活该你单身 (2010) by Cai Xin 蔡心 – becomes more desperate and less funny as it goes on.
The film’s Chinese title literally means “Falling in Love with My Ex-Wife”. [In Hong Kong the film was retitled 翻叮我老婆 (roughly, “My Comeback Wife”). The 2009 novel – see left – by Mainland writer Li Wei 李唯 was previously made into a 22-part TV drama, Love with My Former Wife, 2009, directed by Qi Jian 戚健 and starring actor Geng Le 耿乐 and actress Song Jia 宋佳, aka Xiao Song Jia 小宋佳.]
Presented by Beijing Polybona Film Distribution (CN), Sundream Motion Pictures (HK)), Sundream Motion Pictures (HK), iHQ (SK), Beijing Dingdian Zhongshi International Advertising (CN). Produced by Beijing Polybona Film Distribution (CN), Sundream Motion Pictures (HK), iHQ (SK), Beijing Dingdian Zhongshi International Advertising (CN).
Script: Situ Jinyuan [Szeto Kam-yuen], Deng Liqi, Zhu Wen. Novel: Li Wei. Photography: Guan Zhiyao [Jason Kwan]. Editing: Wei Shufen. Music: Li Duanxian. Production design: Lv Dong. Costumes: Pang Yan. Styling: Li Hui. Sound: Yang Jiang, Wang Qingsheng. Visual effects: Bak Hyeon-shin (Kinomotive Studio).
Cast: Chen Kun (Ma Yong), Lu Yi (Zhang Qi), Yuan Quan (Yu Xiaohong), Wu Tianyu [Debbie Goh] (Zhao Hui), Tei [Gim Ho-gyeong] (South Korean groom), Li Geng (wedding MC), Guan Ling (massage-chair sales clerk), Zhang Ye (waitress), Lu Ziyi (young girl), Yang Yi (booking clerk), Zhao Xin (Chen), Ding Yichun (Chen’s wife), Shan Yangguang (traffic policeman), Shan Ru (Yu Xiaohong’s father), Li Xueyan (Yu Xiaohong’s mother).
Premiere: Pusan Film Festival (A Window on Asian Cinema), 9 Oct 2010.
Release: China, 22 Oct 2010; Hong Kong, 6 Jan 2011; South Korea, tba.
(Review originally published on Film Business Asia, 7 Dec 2010.)