Finding Mr. Right
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  • Finding Mr. Right
  • 121 minutes  -  Comedy
  • Original title: Běijīng yù shàng Xīyǎtú
  • Director:Xiao Lu Xue
  • Language: English
  • Country: China

A wealthy Chinese mistress is sent by her lover to Seattle to give birth to an unplanned child. Once there, she develops feelings for her chauffeur, an older former doctor, and her high-class arrogance slowly gives way to love.

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REVIEW BY Tobias Zuser Movie EXPERT
Review posted: 29/08/2013

The popular genre of romantic comedies in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan rarely finds its way to non-Asian audiences, and while both the narrative and cast of such movies draw upon regional TV dramas, quite a few of them are highly underrated abroad. Finding Mr. Right, however, offers at least two valid reasons for receiving more international attention. Firstly, it has a fresh take on the genre, situating a Chinese love story in an American context; and secondly, it has the wonderful leading actress Tang Wei.

There is no doubt that Tang Wei is currently one of the most dazzling stars from mainland China. Having suddenly gained international fame in 2007, with her appearance in Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, it took her almost three years to rehabilitate herself from the outrage caused by her explicit sex scenes with Tony Leung (which have been censored by SARFT, China’s State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television). Since 2010, however, she has been given the chance to re-establish her position in the Chinese film industry, mainly through big productions such as The Founding of a Party and Wu Xia.

"It has a fresh take on the genre, situating a Chinese love story in an American context."

In Finding Mr. Right, Tang Wei plays Jiajia, a young mistress from Beijing who has been sent to Seattle by her married lover to give birth to an unplanned child. At the airport, she is welcomed by Frank (Wu Xiubo), a chauffeur for a small nursing home run by the Taiwanese lady Huang Mali (Elaine Jin), which serves Chinese mothers-to-be who share the illegal intention of giving birth on American soil. That Finding Mr. Right is not just an uninspiring and predictable love-at-first-sight flick is boldly emphasized after five minutes, when Jiajia performs her first angry tirade and provides a perfect lesson in giving colloquial orders in Chinese: “快点你/kuài diǎn nǐ” (hurry up!), “小心点啊/xiǎoxīn diǎn a” (be careful!), “开门你快点/kāimén nǐ kuài diǎn” (open the door, quick!). It is during these occasions that Jiajia´s Beijing dialect becomes obvious, with one of its most distinctive features being the so called “erization” (儿化/ér huà) that adds an “-r” sound to most suffixes ending in “-an” and “-en.” Therefore, Jiajia’s phrase “开门你快点/kāimén nǐ kuài diǎn” rather sounds like “开门儿你快点儿/kāimé-r nǐ kuài diǎ-r,” demonstrating that she’s from the capital of China. Nevertheless, “erization” is easy to learn (Tang Wei is not a Beijinger), and often gives your Chinese a more authentic and smarter touch – with a hint of comedy.

Jiajia, however, is not only defined by her spoken language. While, at the beginning, she seems to be a one-dimensional member of China’s new rich, spoilt and arrogant, Tang Wei’s acting gradually reveals a more complex character. This is especially the case when she interacts with the grey-bearded chauffeur Frank, a failed doctor who has been downgraded to a houseman by his successful wife, but who soon becomes Jiajia’s model for a loving and caring husband and father.

Admittedly, this might not be the most innovative story-line, but despite its stereotypically romantic tone, director Xue Xiaolu (Ocean Heaven) manages to touch on sensitive controversies in contemporary China: from the one-child policy, to pregnancy outside marriage and the social and economic dependency of mistresses. This critical commentary provides another convincing argument for why Finding Mr. Right deserves more attention outside China, but this opportunity has been spoiled by translators. While the Chinese title, 北京遇上西雅图/Běijīng yù shàng Xīyǎtú (literally, "Beijing meets Seattle"), smartly and not-so-subtly references the US classic Sleepless in Seattle – which definitely helped turn the movie into a box office hit in China –, the English translation, Finding Mr. Right, neutralizes this marketing strategy in non-Chinese speaking countries, letting the movie disappear amidst other uninspired romantic film titles.

"Although Finding Mr. Right cannot be considered a masterpiece, it's a light-hearted and comprehensible introduction to Chinese romantic comedies."

Even for fans of Asian film who have yet not been attracted to romantic comedies and their often locally-specific humour, it is definitely worth the time to explore this genre. Compared to their Western counterparts, Chinese directors often have the ambition and financial urge to release one or two movies every year, and therefore they are also used to working across different genres. One of the most reputable among them is Johnny To, who – although infamous for his gangster movies, and celebrated for them at film festivals all around the world – regularly proves his sense for romance (Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, Romancing in Thin Air, Blind Detective, and so on).

Although Xue Xiaolu certainly hasn’t reached To’s level, and Finding Mr. Right cannot be considered a masterpiece, the film is a light-hearted and comprehensible introduction to Chinese romantic comedies. As for students of Mandarin, this genre often offers a better opportunity to pick up vernacular Chinese, with more practical and useful vocabulary than popular martial arts or gangster movies.