Film Review: LoveA long running time, too many characters and too much whimsy and corn make this romantic romp more of a slog than a soufflé.
Taking place in Taipei and Beijing, Love charts the romantic progress of eight characters striving to find happiness in bustling, modern-day Asia. Yi Jia (Chen Yi-han) discovers she is pregnant by Kai (Eddie Peng), the boyfriend of her best friend, Ni (Amber Kuo), with whom she had an affair after they broke up. Ni’s father, Lu (Doze Niu Chen-Zer), has a glamorous mistress Zoe Fang (Shu Qi) whom he has no intention of marrying, but Zoe, secretly carrying on with Lu’s business partner Mark (Mark Chao), has fallen in love, improbably, with Kuan (Juan Ching-Tien), a waiter afflicted with a stammer, whose wide-eyed innocence enchants her. Mark, meanwhile, jets to Beijing to buy a house and meets an inept real estate agent, Xiao-Ye Jin (Vicki Zhao), a single mother with a young son who somehow, despite her utter goofiness, intrigues him.
“This is too cheesy,” remarks Lu at one point, and you may be all too inclined to agree watching this extended soap opera. Director/co-writer Doze Niu seems to be angling for a Chinese version of all those twee, multi-character Richard Curtis-scripted romantic romps like Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Love Actually. Set mostly in a glisteningly glamorous New China, like those films, Love is heavy on both wacky whimsy and oozing sentiment, always accompanied by that tinkling piano of poignancy which has become such a cliché of emotional moments in Western pap. It starts impressively enough, during the protracted opening credits, with many of the characters making their entrance during some impressively long one-take tracking shots which, on a technical level at least, match anything done by Hitchcock or Scorsese. Nothing that follows, however, is as impressive, and you tire of all the romantic shenanigans long before the protracted running time is over.
The attractive cast—largely seemingly cast, as with many Bollywood films, for their Westernized looks—do what they can with lines like “I feel at home in your arms.” Mark and Xiao-Ye meet ultra-cute when, having misplaced her keys, she injures her leg trying to climb over a wall surrounding the property she is showing him. Her unfortunately named little boy Dou Dou contributes his share of rote pathos by winsomely bonding with Mark over their shared lack of a daddy. There is some humor in their relationship stemming from Xiao-Ye’s disdain of Taiwanese men like Mark, as opposed to the Beijing types she prefers.
The guys—apart from that annoyingly easy stutter of Kuan—are largely interchangeable. The real cast standouts are Kuo, who brings some tasty feistiness to the frustrated Ni, and Qi, who has a raffish appeal as a disillusioned, self-described parasite, who has never worked a day in her life due to the beauty which make men happily take care of her.