I just watched the Chinese movie If You Are the One and its sequel. I’m disappointed by the first and confused by the second. The two films tell the story of a nearly 50-year-old bachelor looking to get married and a single woman 20 years his younger whose heart is hung up on another married man. These two characters are played respectively by Beijing’s Ge Yo and Taiwan’s Shu Qi1, two well-known celebrities.
Shu Qi’s character Xiao Xiao is an attractive late-twenties flight attendant who is in love with a married man. This guy promised her that he’d leave his wife and marry her. But guess what? He renegs and leaves her hanging. Heartbroken but still not over him, she continues to wait for him to change his mind. But while she’s waiting, why not broadcast an online personal? That’s how she meets Qin Fen who did the same.
Here’s Qin Fen’s personal both in Chinese and English because it’s that funny. It’s a good example of Ge You’s trademark dry, quirky humor. Here’s his marriage personal at the beginning of the first movie.
你要想找一帅哥就别来了，你要想找一钱包就别见了。硕士学历以上的免谈，女企业家免谈 （小商小贩除外）。省得咱们互相都会失望。刘德华和阿汤哥那种才貌双全的郎君是不会来征你的婚的， 当然我也没做诺丁山的梦。您要真是一仙女我也接不住，没期待您长得跟画报封面一样看一眼就魂飞魄散。 外表时尚，内心保守，身心都健康的一般人就行。要是多少还有点婉约那就更靠谱了。心眼别太多， 岁数别太小。会叠衣服，每次洗完烫平。叠的都像刚从商店里买回来的一样。说得够具体了吧？
自我介绍一下。我岁数已经不小了。日子小康。抽烟，不喝酒。留学生身份出去的，在国外生活过十几年， 没正经上过学，蹉跎中练就一身生存技能，现在学无所成海外归来，实话实说，应该定性为一只没有公司、 没有股票、没有学位的“三无伪海龟”。人品五五开，不算老实，但天生胆小，杀人不犯法我也下不去手， 总体而言属于对人群对社会有益无害的一类。
If you’re looking for a handsome guy, don’t bother. No gold-diggers either. To avoid mutual disappointment: no women with educational backgrounds of masters and above or entrepreneurs (except for small trades and peddlers). Talented and good-looking playboys like Andy Lau and Tom Cruise won’t be looking to marry you. Of course, I’m not dreaming of Notting Hill. If you’re actually a goddess, I can’t handle you. I’m not expecting a cover girl who will blow me away with her beauty. Modern on the outside, conservative on the inside. An average person with a healthy body and mind is fine. If you are also demure, that’s even better. Don’t be too complicated or too young. Proficiency in folding laundry. Preferably pressed and folded like they just came off the store shelf. Am I being specific enough?
Let me introduce myself. My age is not small. Middle-class. Smoke but don’t drink. Went abroad to study. Lived overseas for a dozen years. Never really studied much. Slacked and learned a few survival skills. I’ve returned without accomplishment. Truthfully, I’m what they call a “three strikes” returnee: no company, no stocks, no degree. Morally, I’m 50-50. I’m no angel, but I was born a bit cowardly. If homicide was legal, I still couldn’t do it. Overall, I’d classify myself as a constructive and harmless member of society.
If interested, please call. If not sincere, do not disturb.
The first film, although labeled a romantic comedy, is rather melancholy. Xiao Xiao is a real downer. She constantly feels sorry for herself and is in general a depressing person. It’s hard to imagine Hollywood billing a movie that ended with the attempted suicide of its main female character as a romantic comedy. The first half shows Qin Fen going on many blind dates and the succession of women in one way or another incompatible women. There’s the woman who parlays their date into an opportunity to sell him a cemetery plot for his parents, the woman who lives in a far-flung western province reachable only after an entire day traveling via ox-drawn cart, and the erotophobic widow who will only agree to sex once a year. The second half’s pacing feels off. Its plot is inconclusive and goes nowhere. Its only redeeming aspect is the scenery of beautiful Hokkaido.
Nonetheless, If You Are the One was one of the highest grossing Chinese films in the months after its release. Its success most likely comes from its two big stars and perhaps the tastes of Chinese audiences. This Wall Street Journal article describes how Chinese romantic comedies are very different from their Hollywood counterparts. Love isn’t always butterflies in one’s stomach, but often a painful struggle.
If you aren’t searching for a carefree, happily-ever-after summer movie, then these two movies aren’t that bad. I’m watching them to brush up on my Mandarin and to acquaint myself with some of China’s best natural landscapes.
Much of If You Are the One 2 takes place in China’s Hainan island. Qin Fen’s vacation getaway in a private tree house overlooking the island is visually stunning. So stunning that the story and characters take a backseat. But that’s alright. I have no qualms with watching Shu Qi walking among tropical plants and preparing to take a bath in the tub on the balcony.
This is even more melancholy than the first one. Qin Fen and Xiao Xiao decide to break off their engagement and split up. Then his good friend Xiang Shan tells him he’s got terminal malignant melanoma.
The last third of the movie is all about Xiang Shan’s farewell ceremony. Pretty much they hold a funeral while he’s still alive and present. Everyone pays their respects. He does this long confessional at the end laying bare his shortcomings and mistakes. His daughter recites a poem she wrote. One of the saddest things i’ve heard. And then Qin Fen takes him out into the middle of teh ocean aboard a little dignhy and the guy gets out of his wheelchair and jumps into the ocean to die.
Shu Qi was once a softcore porn model starring in films with names like Sex & Zen II. Just FYI. She has overcome the stigma by moving into mainstream movies. Oh, and she has a high ranking on the scientific and authoritative AskMen.com’s [“Top 99 Women” list].↩