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Only You (2015)
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by Jay Seaver

"Predictably predictable."
3 stars

As Fong Yang (Tang Wei) lays out the backstory for "Only You" in its opening fourth-wall-breaking minutes, I briefly wondered if it perhaps made a bit more sense with a Chinese background than in the original American movie starring Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Junior, and then counter-wondered if this idea of the Chinese as relatively superstitious was some sort of holdover stereotype that really has no place in the twenty-first century. I was still thinking about that afterward, which doesn't say much for the impression that the romantic comedy in between made on me.

Fong Yang, who also informs us that her name means "Square Circle", visited two fortune tellers as a teen, both of whom told her that she would marry a man named Song Kunming. Never having wound up meeting one, she became a vet and is now about to marry a dentist, Xie Wei, come January. That is, until she answers the phone while moving into Xie Wei's apartment and it's his high school classmate Song Kunming, who unfortunately doesn't have time to meet up because he's about to fly to Milan. Fong Yang impulsively follows, with gal pal Xiaotong ("Sophie" Su Yan) along both to serve as a voice of reason and as a getaway from her own contentious marriage. They track him to a bar where a scruffily handsome Chinese man (Liao Fan) catches Fong Yang's eye. She winds up chasing after the other Chinese guy in the place, so Xiaotang asks the first to help look for her, and after he and Xiaotang escape some drunken football fans, they wander the city. She tells him about how she's destined to marry Song Kunming, and wouldn't you know it, he says that's his name!

But then, wouldn't you? This movie doesn't have a whole lot going for it, but there are many, many less solid foundations for a romantic comedy than Tang Wei's beauty and charm. She's easily the best thing about this movie, whether slipping into the bedside manner she uses for her four-legged patients while bandaging "Kunming" or fuming over his lies later on, and that's in spite of her playing a character who at one point actually declares that chasing after a man based upon the words of oracles almost two decades earlier is her rebelling against how other people have been making decisions for her all her life. She still comes off as funny, smart, and eventually mature enough to realize what chasing the idea of Kunming halfway around the world is actually about.

She's also able to build a nice chemistry with Liao Fan, which is good, because his Feng Dali doesn't really work that well on his own. Maybe if he'd been given a few more scenes on his own so that the audience could see what Dali is really like when Fong Yang or Xaiotong isn't looking, that would help - even if he was still a schemer, writer Zhao Shuo and director Zhang Hao could show desperation, frenzy, or doubt over his course of action. Instead, Liao is stuck playing a kind of generically nice or lovelorn guy, blandly goodhearted enough to counter his actions but not particularly interesting. Given where he's starting from, heeds to be someone that the audience actively likes rather than just coming across as "not that bad".

Zhang's film has a few other problems as well. The set-up for jokes or other scenes can run from the clunky to nonexistent. There are awkward linguistic moments - a scene with with Fong Yang and an older Italian man at the hotel's front desk trying to use English as a common language is true-to-life but kind of a road-bump in a light comedy, even without considering how much information he's giving out to a woman who is technically a stalker. There are also a lot of moments when the characters explain the plot or recap the last scene despite what's going on really not being that complicated, enough so that it becomes annoying.

There are a fair number of good jokes in it, though, and they run the gamut from broad to unusually specific. It's pretty nice as cinematic tourism, which seems to have become quite popular in Chinese comedies in recent years (there's probably an interesting essay to be written about Chinese movies showing the country and its people engaging the rest of the world as equals rather than disparaging it). and the supporting cast does their job well, almost always enhancing their scenes.

Heck, for all I know, it's better than the original no matter how likely its silly premise is to be taken seriously in various cultures. That doesn't quite make it good, though, and it never sells the idea that a woman should choose the man who lies to her over the fated husband, even if the latter is only hypothetical.

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originally posted: 08/11/15 12:40:12
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Directed by
  Hao Zhang

Written by
  Shuo Zhao

  Wei Tang
  Fan Liao
  Yan Su

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