Film Review: Finding Mr. Right

Charming and well-acted, if overextended, Chinese rom-com should have pretty universal appeal.

Spoiled, shallow and pretty Jiajia (Tang Wei) is obsessed with the film Sleepless in Seattle, and flies there from Beijing to have the baby of her married tycoon lover. Flush with designer clothes and haughty attitude, she stays at a maternity center run by Huang Mali (Elaine Jin), and immediately makes herself the most unpopular resident with her bitchiness and entitled demands. The one person who has any patience for her is the center's quietly self-effacing driver Frank (Wu Xiubo), who was once a doctor in China. Theirs is initially a combative relationship, but eventually their oil and water mix, as she becomes sympathetic to his unjustly lowly U.S. status and his single parenting of an adorable little girl (Song Meihui). Unlike these two, we in the audience can see their romance coming a mile away, but there are myriad obstacles to overcome.

A huge moneymaker in its native China, Finding Mr. Right is primed with all the elements for an international crossover success, apart from its slightly excessive length. Writer-director Xue Xiaolu manages a good balance between the tartly comic—especially in the very entertaining and combative female "dorm" scenes, which play like some Asian version of Stage Door or Tender Comrade—and heartwarming sentimentality, never going too overboard, thankfully, with the latter. The movie has an attractive, glossy look and production values are impressive, although the music soundtrack gets a bit thick towards the more dramatic finale with the heavy-handed use of droning pop songs, including the too-easy choice of Louis Armstrong's "Wonderful World' to sweetly wrap things up on, yes, the top of the Empire State Building. (Such is the film's ingratiating skill that even the use of that Nora Ephron contrived confection is pretty painless.)

The major part of the appeal here lies in the genuine chemistry between disparate types Tang and Wu. She's a splendidly rowdy physical and verbal comedienne in the first half of the film and then, when her rich lover abandons her and she must be humbled, evinces a real, if slightly reluctant, womanly humanity. He possesses a mighty attractive innate dignity and calm, and also distinct romantic ardor. Some of his scenes, gazing with wonder at her, almost match Colin Firth's swoon-inducing, star-making intense looks at his beloved as Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. All those pregnant ladies, and Jin, are hilarious, and little Song has a real, solemn charm.