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Film Review: Holding Love

2012-09-17 10:35:19        Chinese Films

Yang Mi (L) and Hawick Lau (R).[Photo:filmbiz.asia]

China

Contemporary romantic comedy

2012, colour, 2.35:1, 98 mins

Directed by Stephen Zhang

Story

Beijing, the present day. On the day they spontaneously divorce after being married for less than a month, magician Tao Xiaolei (Hawick Lau) and air hostess Zhou Jing (Mini Yang) hear they have won a free honeymoon down in Sanya, Hainan Island. Zhou Jing agrees to go, on condition they each do their own thing. At a drunken party Xiaolei bumps into an ex-girlfriend, Fang Meng (Chrissie Chau), and almost gets into a fight with a gangster type, Brother Bao (Michael Wang), who also claims to be her ex. Next morning Xiaolei and Fang Meng wake up in bed together, and Xiaolei receives a call saying that Zhou Jing has been kidnapped and will be killed unless he pays RMB1 million (US$150,000) within 48 hours. Xiaolei calls a Beijing friend, Sun Nuo (Lawrence Wang), manager of the bar at which he first met Xiaolei, to ask for a loan, but it's not enough. Meanwhile, Zhou Jing wakes up in a jungle treehouse in Jianfengling National Park and meets geeky botanist Bao Sanhe (Michael Wang), who is collecting samples. He offers to take her to safety but, when he can't find the way out, they end up spending the night in the jungle. At the same time, Fang Meng has been introducing Xiaolei to some gambling groups so he can use his card skills to win some money, but without success. Xiaolei refuses to ask the help of his wealthy father, Tao Dawei (Hugo Wu), who walked out on him and his mother, but eventually is forced to call him, and his father agrees to wire the money. However, the kidnapper then gives him a further 24 hours, even though he's ready to pay up, and just as Zhou Jing arrives back at the hotel she sees Xiaolei going off with Fang Meng - the continuation of a train of events that are not what they seem.

Review

What could have been a frothy rom-com in a glamorous setting never catches fire in Holding Love. Largely of interest for its teaming of current hottie Mini YANG and Hong Kong TV pin-up Hawick LAU — a real-life couple who've also made two TV dramas this year (RuYi and Sheng Xia Wan Qing Tian) — the movie starts with the promising idea of just-divorced love birds thrown together on a free holiday but gets entangled in a script that should be about two people learning how to love but instead is all over the place. Surprisingly, Yang and Lau generate minimal rom-com chemistry on the big screen: largely a TV drama star, Lau is the livelier of the two but acts in a vacuum, while Yang, showing none of her squawky verve from films like Painted Skin: The Resurrection, looks like she's thinking of the 20 other projects she has on her schedule. To carry a picture in a lead role, Yang needs a stronger script and direction than she gets here.

The best playing comes from Michael WANG (the father in 11 Flowers) in a double role as a gangster type and a geeky botanist, though even he becomes lost in the script's plot pile-up in the second half. Mainland-born, Hong Kong-based glamourpuss Chrissie CHAU gets little to do as a former girlfriend of Lau's character. After an interesting start with psychodrama Help (2007), director Stephen ZHANG tripped up badly with psychothriller The Devil Inside Me and shows no feel for rom-com timing or script construction here. Glossy photography by Hong Kong's CHEUNG Hok-man (The Devil Inside Me) of locations around trendy Sanya on tropical Hainan Island — used for If You are the One II (2010) — earns the film an extra point. The movie's original title incorporates a Chinglish catchphrase that roughly means "holding onto", as in keeping control of a situation — something Holding Love rarely does.

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