Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: 33 Postcards

The “oh-so-innocent waif and big old baddie” odd-couple formula dates back to D.W. Griffith, but this muddled effort does nothing to merit its questionable revival.

May 16, 2013

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1377508-33_Postcards_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Overseas foster children rarely get to know what’s really going on with their adoptive parents, and vice-versa, but the duo in 33 Postcards—Dean Randall (Guy Pearce), serving time in Australia for manslaughter, and Mei Mei (Zhu Lin), an orphan in China who sings in a choir and is about to visit Down Under on a concert tour—seem particularly clueless.

Mei Mei is bent on finally meeting her mysterious benefactor since childhood, and a series of improbable coincidences finds her escaping her choir to see him for the first time in stir, and then becoming involved in a car-theft ring whose members include Randall’s seemingly holier-than-thou brother (Rhys Muldoon). At first resistant to Mei Mei’s pleading gamine charms, Dean becomes worried when he hears of this turn of events and, to get out of jail and help her, he courageously volunteers to testify against a fellow inmate.

Director Pauline Chan spins quite a tangled and improbable web in 33 Postcards, but its very unlikelihood manages to be its winsome charm, as well as its eventual undoing. The ingratiatingly perky appeal of Zhu Lin is an immense asset; although her Mei Mei is so completely innocent a waif that she makes Miyoshi Umeki in Flower Drum Song seem as sophisticated as Tallulah Bankhead, Lin’s utter naturalness and sweetness put you solidly in her corner Yes, even when she’s saying, “This is bad thing you do. No do it!” to those big bad car thieves. When she looks at Dean and says, “You are my family now,” only a stone would be unmoved.

Pearce has always struck me as a somewhat lightweight actor, and this is all too apparent in a role that calls for a tragic gravitas that might help you ignore questions in your head like: Where did he get the money to support an orphan all these years? Unfortunately, as the film unspools, more and more questions pertaining to the often-haphazard exposition crop up, and by the end any commitment you might have to watching it dissipates into mere semi-interested observation. Dean’s martyrdom at the hands of the inmate he rats on is inevitable, given Chan’s heavy-handed use of ominous scene after scene between them.

Chan seems oblivious to the way credibility insistently seeps out of her film and bustles on, heading cheerfully towards one of those meant-to-be-shatteringly-heartwarming finales showing Mei-Mei reunited with her choir and conducting the little angels who give forth with every drop of lung power. The whole thing is captured in glowing tones by cinematographer Toby Oliver, whose work, especially his lensing of scenic Chinese and Australian vistas, is a real plus. His efforts are particularly ravishing in the unnecessary but pretty fantasy scenes showing Dean as the wildlife park ranger he pretends to be, going lyrically about his—in the heavy Aussie-speak employed here—“raynger” duties looking after the “waldlife.”


Film Review: 33 Postcards

The “oh-so-innocent waif and big old baddie” odd-couple formula dates back to D.W. Griffith, but this muddled effort does nothing to merit its questionable revival.

May 16, 2013

-By David Noh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1377508-33_Postcards_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Overseas foster children rarely get to know what’s really going on with their adoptive parents, and vice-versa, but the duo in 33 Postcards—Dean Randall (Guy Pearce), serving time in Australia for manslaughter, and Mei Mei (Zhu Lin), an orphan in China who sings in a choir and is about to visit Down Under on a concert tour—seem particularly clueless.

Mei Mei is bent on finally meeting her mysterious benefactor since childhood, and a series of improbable coincidences finds her escaping her choir to see him for the first time in stir, and then becoming involved in a car-theft ring whose members include Randall’s seemingly holier-than-thou brother (Rhys Muldoon). At first resistant to Mei Mei’s pleading gamine charms, Dean becomes worried when he hears of this turn of events and, to get out of jail and help her, he courageously volunteers to testify against a fellow inmate.

Director Pauline Chan spins quite a tangled and improbable web in 33 Postcards, but its very unlikelihood manages to be its winsome charm, as well as its eventual undoing. The ingratiatingly perky appeal of Zhu Lin is an immense asset; although her Mei Mei is so completely innocent a waif that she makes Miyoshi Umeki in Flower Drum Song seem as sophisticated as Tallulah Bankhead, Lin’s utter naturalness and sweetness put you solidly in her corner Yes, even when she’s saying, “This is bad thing you do. No do it!” to those big bad car thieves. When she looks at Dean and says, “You are my family now,” only a stone would be unmoved.

Pearce has always struck me as a somewhat lightweight actor, and this is all too apparent in a role that calls for a tragic gravitas that might help you ignore questions in your head like: Where did he get the money to support an orphan all these years? Unfortunately, as the film unspools, more and more questions pertaining to the often-haphazard exposition crop up, and by the end any commitment you might have to watching it dissipates into mere semi-interested observation. Dean’s martyrdom at the hands of the inmate he rats on is inevitable, given Chan’s heavy-handed use of ominous scene after scene between them.

Chan seems oblivious to the way credibility insistently seeps out of her film and bustles on, heading cheerfully towards one of those meant-to-be-shatteringly-heartwarming finales showing Mei-Mei reunited with her choir and conducting the little angels who give forth with every drop of lung power. The whole thing is captured in glowing tones by cinematographer Toby Oliver, whose work, especially his lensing of scenic Chinese and Australian vistas, is a real plus. His efforts are particularly ravishing in the unnecessary but pretty fantasy scenes showing Dean as the wildlife park ranger he pretends to be, going lyrically about his—in the heavy Aussie-speak employed here—“raynger” duties looking after the “waldlife.”
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Timbuktu
Film Review: Timbuktu

A nuanced, humanistic portrait of a town besieged by jihadists, its images of violence suffused with almost surreal dreaminess. More »

Girlhood
Film Review: Girlhood

Drama of a female teen and her gang in a tough Paris project delivers some fine acting but is wobbly in its story of the young heroine’s sad journey into an ugly early adulthood. More »

Above and Beyond
Film Review: Above and Beyond

This fascinating true-life tale begs for feature-film treatment. More »

Supremacy
Film Review: Supremacy

Topical and accomplished filmmaking overcomes genre expectations. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

The Wedding Ringer
Film Review: The Wedding Ringer

Intermittently amusing bro-comedy trifle that confirms Kevin Hart's talent, though not his taste in material. More »

Paddington
Film Review: Paddington

This feel-good, looks-great first-time big-screen adaptation of the beloved British children's stories about a stowaway Peruvian bear finding his, er, bearings in London is much more than just, oops, bearable. The handsome production greatly benefits from a top-notch cast of some of the U.K.’s finest actors and its beautiful blend of CGI-enriched live action and animated ursine star. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here