The Honey Enemy
China, 2015, colour, 2.35:1, 91 mins.
Director: Zhang Linzi 张林子.
Formulaic but enjoyable rom-com is helped by lively dialogue and mostly good ensemble playing.
Shanghai, the present day. Xia Xiaoyu (Zhang Yuqi), senior matching consultant at dating agency Cupid.com, is devastated when Xu Mo (Huo Jianhua), her boyfriend of over 10 years, announces he’s marrying another woman. Meanwhile, to get Cupid.com out of its financial problems, CEO Zhou Yunfeng (Gweon Sang-u) asks the help of Ye (Cheng Yong), an old friend of the family. Ye says he’ll invest in Cupid.com if Zhou Yunfeng can prevent the marriage of his daughter Ye Jingsi (Shi Yufei) to a man she’s only recently met. Without divulging the real business reason, Zhou Yunfeng asks Xia Xiaoyu to use all her matching skills to get Ye Jingsi, who was a childhood friend, to fall for him. She initially refuses but, when she sees that Ye Jingsi’s fiance is Xu Mo, she agrees. She books herself and Zhou Yunfeng on the same cruise ship that the couple are taking to Jeju, South Korea’s “honeymoon island”, to get married. Meeting on board “by chance”, Zhou Yunfeng introduces Xia Xiaoyu as his girlfriend, and the latter befriends Ye Jingsi while also trying to undermine her relationship with Xu Mo. Xu Mo realises what Xia Xiaoyu is up to but cannot say anything. And by the time the ship reaches Jeju, Zhou Yunfeng and Xia Xiaoyu still haven’t succeeded in their plans.
A formulaic rom-com with a light touch and some lively dialogue, The Honey Enemy 情敌蜜月 doesn’t linger long in the memory but manages to stretch its slim plot without any signs of strain thanks to generally good ensemble playing by its central quartet. It’s also notable – given so many stiff pairings of Chinese and Korean actors – for a relaxed, likeable performance by Gweon Sang-u 권상우 | 权相佑 (My Tutor Friend 동갑내기 과외하기, 2003; 71 – Into the Fire 포화 속으로, 2010) who, though benefitting from characterful revoicing by TV actor Wang Kai 王凯, has natural chemistry with his Mainland leading lady, Zhang Yuqi 张雨绮. Overall, it’s a solid job by Shandong-born director Zhang Linzi 张林子, then 30, following several shorts, a low-budget indie feature centred on rural kids, Chang He 长河 (2012), and a couple of TV drama series.
It’s Gweon’s third outing in a Chinese production after Shadows of Love 影子爱人 (2012) with Hong Kong’s Zhang Bozhi 张柏芝 [Cecilia Cheung] and action comedy CZ12 十二生肖 (2012). Almost 40, he’s a long way from the pretty K-pop boys who normally decorate Mainland movies. Gweon turns in a comically mature performance as the embattled Chinese head of a dating agency who asks the help of his chief matchmaker (Zhang) to quickly pair him off with a childhood friend who’s about to marry. When she discovers the groom is her former two-timing boyfriend, she eagerly agrees, bringing all four together on board a cruise ship to Jeju, South Korea’s “honeymoon island”. The script, by Shanghai-born Hong Ling 洪泠 (who previously worked with Zhang Linzi on TVD One and a Half Summer 1½的夏天, 2014) and Beijinger Bi Chenggong 毕成功, is basically a series of encounters and brief sketches as the dating-agency pair try to sabotage the lovers’ happiness before arriving at Jeju. The basic joke, of course, is that two “experts” in love can’t get it right with either themselves or others.
The ending can be seen an hour away, and the whole film is slightly reminiscent of Mainland rom-coms with wedding finales that were popular in the late 2000s. In her first sizeable role in three years – since White Deer Plain 白鹿原 (2012), in fact – Zhang shows an aptitude for this kind of light comedy, even if her voice still grates and doesn’t match her somewhat exotic looks. As the bride-to-be who’s ignorant of all the background, Shi Yufei 施予斐 has an ingenuous freshness; unfortunately, she’s paired with Taiwan’s Huo Jianhua 霍建华 as the groom-to-be/ex-boyfriend, who’s as wooden as usual.
Production values are good without being lavish – for a start, the cruise ship is noticeably short of other passengers. Though financed and made by Mainlanders, the film has additional South Korean input in the form of Gwak Jae-yong 곽재용 | 郭在容 (My Sassy Girl 엽기적인 그녀, 2001; Meet Miss Anxiety 我的早更女友, 2014), who’s billed as chief creative producer 总监制, and the perky score that keeps things bouncing along. The Chinese title means “Love Rivals’ Honeymoon”. Local box office was a lame RMB10 million.
Presented by Beijing Dingheng Boyuan Culture Media (CN).
Script: Hong Ling, Bi Chenggong. Original story: An Zhaibin. Photography: Ba Rihu. Editing: Chen Zhiwei [Andy Chan]. Music direction: Gim Jun-seong, Hong Gyo-im. Art direction: Yang Jie. Sound: Lin Siyu, Liang Shuang.
Cast: Zhang Yuqi (Xia Xiaoyu), Gweon Sang-u (Zhou Yunfeng), Huo Jianhua (Xu Mo), Shi Yufei (Ye Jingsi), Zhou Xiao’ou (Jing), Cheng Yong (Ye Jingsi’s father), Wei Darun (rose man), Tang Jiaqi (Xiaobai).
Release: China, 2 Sep 2015.