Posted by Pete DeMola on 21. Apr 2010
BEIJING, Apr 20 - Perhaps it is the combination of low-angle shots of Beijing's towering skyline and the quirky jazz-inspired instrumental soundtrack. Or maybe it is the pronounced affinity for luxury wear and expensive cars.
It could be the fact that the story revolves around a single woman who finds herself caught up in a taboo office romance while trying to climb that corporate ladder on her own terms and in Gucci heels.
Yes, the commonalities between Go Lala Go! and the American television-cum-screen success Sex and the City make it difficult to ignore assertions that it is nothing more than China's take on the beloved TV series-turned-movie franchise.
But hidden beneath the glamorous effects of shared costume consultant Patricia Fields, Go Lala Go! proves that a contemporary Chinese flick can offer a glimpse of cosmopolitan life in Beijing without sacrificing the homegrown to Hollywood.
Filling the lead role herself, director Xu Jinglei's (A Letter From an Unknown Woman, Dreams May Come) screen adaptation of the extremely popular Chinese novel "Du Lala's Promotion" is straightforward, if not just this side of implausible.
Lala lands a job at an international Fortune 500 company as an entry-level secretary making an equally entry-level salary. Her Chinese-speaking foreign bosses quickly recognize her talents, and she is soon on her way to realizing her corporate aspirations.
Of course, both her professional and personal lives become somewhat complicated with a series of comedic, and eventually, romantic, run-ins with David, the stone-faced Director of Sales played by American-Taiwanese pop star Stanley Huang (Modern Republic, Twenty Something Taipei).
In fact -- from late-night frolics in the Sanlitun Village fountains to dodging the wrath of angry Thai beach vendors by hiding in their underwear -- Xu and Huang's palpable onscreen chemistry holds together a plot that at times unfolds more like a series of episodes than a single, coherent film.
Similar to Sex and the City, the content of these merging episodes revolves around Lala's relationships with others without delving too deeply into her own psyche. With no delicious or dirty laundry to air, luscious luncheons with Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte-types seem almost pointless.
Instead, Lala spends her evenings at home with her brother and his fiancée. She often seeks their guidance in issues of love and livelihood, and in return her brother advises her to stop worrying about finding the perfect career and instead focus her efforts on finding Mr. Right.
The only insight to Lala's own feelings is offered through her late-night Carrie Bradshaw-esque blogging, an activity that nods to the actress's own enormous online popularity.
But what the film lacks in substance it makes up for in flash.
Xu has pointed out that Go Lala Go! is one of the first films in China to claim such high-end names as prominent sponsors. To accommodate such branding, Lala's spending tendencies increase directly with her salary.
When a tipsy Lala decides to drop in on David, who has just returned from visiting his ailing mother in the States, the surprise turns on her as she discovers he did not make the trip alone. Lala blows off steam by burning some serious plastic at luxury houses around Beijing.
In one scene of obvious product placement not unfamiliar to Hollywood -- it might as well have been a commercial spot -- Lala even charges a new sports car to her card, cheerfully explaining to her beau the next morning that her new wheels wiped out her entire life savings and even racked up a payment plan.
Just as the tale of four fabulous ladies from New York City is able to paint a single portrait of a vibrant city through a caricature of some of its residents, Go Lala Go! does not try to represent Beijing life so much as a life in Beijing.
Above all else, the film is part of a welcome trend toward in the film industry favoring more mainstream sensibilities and modern characters over Confucian teachings and Tang dynasty robes.
Such posturing may prove to have a reach as international as the film's cast, hand-picked from the global Chinese Diaspora. But perhaps Xu's greatest accomplishment is that Go Lala Go! is not China's Sex and the City, nor is Lala China's Carrie Bradshaw: those four women could not thrive anywhere else on the planet, nor could Lala work such a combination of extreme cuteness and seriously bedazzled clothing as she does in Beijing.
She is and will remain, China's Lala. Both have managed to grow with their roots planted firmly in Beijing.
Go Lala Go!
Opened Thurs, Apr 15 nationwide
About Xu Jinglei
Actress Xu Jinglei has starred in more than a dozen mainland productions alongside actors such as Jackie Chan and Jiang Wen. In 2006, her personal blog became the most popular website in China. Both Xu's acting skills and directing talent have been the recipient of many awards, including the Chinese Film Media Awards Best New Director and Actress for My Father and I (2004) to the Donostia-San Sebastian International Film Festival Silver Shell for Best Director for her film A Letter from an Unknown Woman (2004). Go Lala Go! is her fourth directoral effort.
About Stanley Huang
Born in Taipei and raised in California, Stanley Huang first rose to fame as a pop-singer. After leaving the group L.A. Boyz, Huang's solo career took off after he left the group, earning himself a Golden Melody Award for Best Male Mandarin Artist in 2004. Go Lala Go! is Huang's third major role in a film.
Karen Mok (Hong Kong), Pace Wu (Taiwan), Wang Jing Ying (Taiwan), Song Ning (Mainland), Li Ai (Mainland). Go Lala Go!, alternatively known in English as Du Lala's Promotion, is based on the novel of the same title written by Li Ke. Running time: 100 min.
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