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Fall in Love Like a Star
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by Jay Seaver

"...but give the star a complete script first."
2 stars

Do you ever feel frustrated watching a movie and think, come on, this shouldn't be so hard - you've got a couple attractive young stars, a decent hook, and ninety minutes to play it out; how hard can a decent romantic comedy be? The next step after that is wondering if the people making it had the same thought and left it at, because "Fall in Love Like a Star" sure feels like the outline of a good movie that misses the in-between bits that would make it sing.

Both Su Xingyu (Li Yifeng) and Tian Xin (Yang Mi) were on the fringes of the music business five years ago - him babysitting instruments he's not allowed to play at a club, her trying to get the show running. They soon became closer ever if he is planning to go to the UK to study, and now... Well, he's one of the biggest stars in China, but a difficult one, and when he clashes with super-agent Mei (Chen Shu), she tells him to see if he'll do better with any other agent at the company. His eyes land on new hire Tian, but tells his former girlfriend that he chose her specifically to make her life miserable. It didn't end well, apparently.

This may not be a great premise, but it's a good one - it's got room for some pretty out-there gags without having to pretend that is going to head anywhere other than its inevitable destination. It's even got room to pivot when Su being a jerk gets tiresome, still having room to spoof the excesses and regimentation of the modern entertainment industry once the pair do get together. When it's on those tracks, it can be quite funny, between the costar who has a serious crush on a completely uninterested Su and Tian trying to navigate the unreasonable demands of the business she's in. There's more than a smattering of funny situations there.

Director Tony Chan and his co-writers don't seem to put that much effort in turning funny situations into an actual entertaining story, unfortunately. Consider the case of supporting characters like Chen Xian ("David" Wang Yaoching), a food blogger who also appears to show some interest in Tian. Wang's character could serve as a mature, sensible balance to Su, and the actor shows a lot of charm and a fair knack for being funny even when relegated to the background of a scene, but he only seems to exist when the movie decides it needs him, and that can be at the most arbitrary of times. His big scene comes when the Screenwriter's Handbook says, midway through the film, that the heroine should turn the tables on the her leading man and show that she doesn't need him and can maybe do better, leading to him retaliating, but there's no lead-in to this scene or effect afterward, it's just the time when this sort of thing happens.

Something similar happens toward the end, when Mei apparently gets jealous of Tian's ability and offhandedly decides to wreck her career (and thus get Su to the point where he realizes Just How Much He Needs Her, even if he does seem to have done that already), but not enough that she can't bounce back even without either of the pair overcoming some sort of challenge. There's another scene where the two become trapped in a hot-air balloon together for what is apparently hours - it goes from mid-day to evening while they're up there - but nothing actually seems to happen while they're up there, away from the rest of the world and nervous, although they talk when they're back on the ground. Again, it's like Chan and company came up with the neat idea and thought it would write itself.

Perhaps the most disappointing example of this is the film's music - the movie actually opens with a nifty musical bit, one that actually displays personality, and that it's revealed to be a daydream is not a problem; it's a good look inside Su's head. And then the music devolves into generic pop, which is okay for a while, especially since there's some satiric intent, but given that there's a fragment of a story about the material Su actually writes when inspired by Tian impressing a reclusive producer but maybe causing the company to shift their efforts to a more willing pop idol, we should really hear something different and exciting that maybe calls back to the sound he dreams of creating in the beginning on the soundtrack as the film goes on. We do not.

This leaves the film's likable cast more or less stranded. It's easy to get behind Tian, after all, since Yang Mi is one of China's more popular young actresses for good reason and does a fine job of making Tian Xin a bit overwhelmed but still able to come off as capable despite having few scenes where she gets to show her competence off, as well as in love but not dumb about it. Li Yifeng is often a little more lost - it's harder to connect the temperamental pop star to the likable underdog of the opening than perhaps it should be - but he's able to deliver what the movie needs when the character actually gets stuff straightened out. They're a fun pair, which should get Fall in Love Like a Star halfway to being a good movie.

You've got to actually build the rest, though, and that means doing a lot more to tell a story than Chan does. Instead, he leaves good raw materials laying around, and while it's fairly easy for the audience to put them together into an entertaining romantic comedy in their heads because it seems so obvious how those pieces are supposed to fit together, that's not the same as being given an actual well-constructed movie.

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originally posted: 12/05/15 18:06:42
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Directed by
  Tony Chan

Written by
  Tony Chan

  Yifeng Li
  Mi Yang
  Shu Chen
  David Wang
  Dilraba Dilmurat

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