With heavyweight producer Hsu Li-kong (徐立功)and seasoned television commercial and music video director Leading Lee (李鼎) at the helm, this debut feature should have been a winner — a pop-idol-encrusted cast acting out the familiar plotline of a woman’s search for self-discovery and true love. Unfortunately, the film’s unfocused script, empty visuals and stiff performances mean My So Called Love is likely to be regarded as a regrettable offering in Hsu’s otherwise successful producing career, which includes such titles as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (臥虎藏龍) and The River (河流).
This film follows Kitty (Barbie Hsu, 徐熙媛), the pop star and actress better known as Big S (大S), and her 10-year journey to find love. First up is high-school sweetheart Liang (Eddie Peng, 彭于晏). Unlike many hormone-charged teenagers, the delectably tanned Liang is a well-mannered gentleman who loves Kitty — but in a platonic way.
Guo is Kitty’s second amour, whom she first encounters when she is forced to prostitute herself over the Internet to make ends meet while Liang is away on military service. Experienced in the game of romance and desire, the older Guo is a charming yuppie who treasures lust over love.
Fast-forward a decade and Kitty has grown into a successful businesswoman, but still finds herself unable to escape her love-hate relationship with Guo. Last but not least in the succession of paramours is the younger Sunshine (Tung Ming-hsiang, 東明相), a girl who gives Kitty hope again. Tung, who’s hearing-impaired both on and off screen, is warm, loving and seems to embody everything Kitty seeks in life — a home and unconditional love.
Based on the novel by pop music composer and lyricist Hsu Wei-ching (許葦晴), which is in turn based on a true story, the film is ambitious in its attempt to portray women in a contemporary light by touching upon quasi-feminist issues such as sexuality and the changing concept of what constitutes a family and home. But despite the film’s technical polish, the aimless story soon begins to gnaw away at its watchability, which is eroded even further by forced plotlines and dialogue that is both lifeless and somewhat pretentious. As an example, just imagine the following scene: a Don Giovanni-type piles tomes of literature onto the backseat of his luxury vehicle to impress the ladies. The young woman he is courting picks up one of the books and, as if on cue, asks innocently, “What is love?”
In terms of acting the cast is incapable of rescuing the flat, formulaic characters from disaster. Chang looks ridiculous in his portrayal of a bad-boy torn between love and desire. Promising actor Peng is dealt another career setback after his turn in last year’s disastrous rom-com My DNA Says I Love You (基因決定我愛你). Judging from her unintentionally amusing yet still dreadful portrayal of Kitty’s 18-year-old self, Barbie Hsu shows that her years of soap opera experience have yet to qualify her as a serious actress.
Audiences sometimes assume that when a music video director turns his eye to the big screen, the end product will be all looks and no content. My So Called Love will not dispel that notion.
My So Called Love (愛的發聲練習)
DIRECTED BY: Leading Lee (李鼎)
Barbie Hsu (徐熙媛) as Kitty, Eddie Peng (彭于晏) as Liang, Chang Hsiao-chuan (張孝全) as Guo, Tung Ming-hsiang (東明相) as Sunshine
RUNNING TIME: 120 MINUTES
LANGUAGE:in Mandarin with Chinese and English subtitles
TAIWAN RELEASE: TODAY
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