In Mandarin (with Chinese & English subtitles)
Director: Feng Xiaogang
Cast: Shu Qi, Ge You, Alex Fong, Vivian Hsu
Released By: Shaw
Official Website: http://www.mediaasia.com/iyato/
Opening Day: 27 February 2009
Chin is a mediocre looking middle-aged bachelor. A self-made
entrepreneur, he has never had much luck in the love department.
He puts out a personal ad hoping to find a relationship, and
after a string of bizarre encounters and bad dates, he finally
strikes a chord with the beautiful Xiaoxiao. Feeling she’s
out of his league, Chin hesitates to further approach her
and instead, develops an accidental friendship with her. As
they spend more time together, they find companionship in
each other, with Xiaoxiao lighting up Chin’s once dull
and repetitive life, and Chin providing a shoulder for Xiaoxiao
to cry on as she suffers through her heartbreak over a recent
story about love in comical situations, IF YOU ARE MY MATCH
depicts how difficult it often is to find the right person,
but also how often we don’t realize it when love hits
us at the most unexpected times.
Feng Xiaogang’s “If You Are the One” is quite unlike most other mainstream romantic comedies. For a start, his leading man is a middle-aged entrepreneur called Qin Fen and let’s just say he’s not someone you would call handsome, nor regard as charming.
Indeed, after making a windfall from the sale of his newest invention termed the Conflict Resolution Terminal (a device first used in Pang Ho-Cheung’s A/V), Qin Fen turns to looking for Ms Right through no less than an online personal ad service. His description of himself is frank and candid- he isn’t out to fool anyone that he’s some Romeo. In his typical straightforward manner, he ends by saying “Don’t respond if you ain’t sincere” (and hence its Chinese title).
If the premise sounds familiar, that’s because it’s inspired by a similar Taiwanese film The Personals (whose writer/director Chen Kuo-Fu is co-writer/producer on this). Like its predecessor, the movie derives much of its humour from the parade of diverse characters that respond to Qin Fen’s ad. And what an eclectic bunch they are, ranging from the obnoxious to the bizarre to the downright manipulative.
There’s a three-month pregnant lady looking for a father to the child inside her, there’s an unhappily married woman who suspects her husband is cheating on her (most likely because she will only have sex with him just once a year) and then there’s a conniving saleslady trying to get him to buy a plot of burial land. And among the mixed bag, there’s also an air stewardess who’s in love with a married man and waiting some years now for him to divorce his wife.
It is this lovelorn individual, Smiley Liang, that Qin Fen develops a liking for. Naturally, the fact that she’s played by Shu Qi helps tremendously- Qin Fen himself saying that she’s prettier than pretty. Well if he’s attracted because of her beauty, she’s clearly drawn to his self-deprecating humour. Despite his sometimes blunt ways, there’s actually an understated appeal to his candour.
Rarely in such romance flicks do you find the kind of wit on display in this movie. Feng Xiaogang has somewhat subverted the genre by creating his male protagonist as the down-to-earth, practical guy whom you probably wouldn’t associate with romantic. At the same time, he uses his character’s pragmatism to poke fun at the realities of modern dating- the way marriage and family are these days so conveniently set aside for career and money making. Satire has always been Feng Xiaogang’s forte and this is no exception.
Another thing that Feng Xiaogang has done right with this movie is casting his usual male lead Ge You as Qin Fen. While Ge You may not seem like anyone’s first choice as the lead in a romance, he gives a charismatic performance that is a joy to watch. And surprisingly, he actually shares a nice chemistry with Shu Qi, who plays the besotted lover with admirable restraint. No doubt they are an unlikely couple, but they effuse such genuine emotions that you’ll quickly find yourself rooting for them.
Alas the movie fails to end on the same high note that it started off and sustained largely. Perhaps to give itself more emotional weight, the story takes an unexpectedly melodramatic twist towards the end that concludes in a rather unsatisfying manner. It doesn’t help that the finish appears stuck in the trappings of a genre that a good part of the movie spent so hard deconstructing.
But let that not make you believe that the movie is less entertaining. Thanks to Feng Xiaogang’s deft Zeitgeist touches, If You Are the One earns its laughs not just by the unconventional pairing of its characters but also by its sharp social commentary. Smart is not usually how you would describe a romantic comedy, but that’s how different this movie turns out to be- well, at least for the most part.
(Feng Xiaogang’s signature wit takes this a notch above the standard romance comedy. Pity the ending, though)
Review by Gabriel Chong