Popular Chinese actress, director, writer and celebrity blogger Xu Jinglei returns to screens both in front of and behind the camera with the topical urban comedy “Go Lala Go!”. The film sees her diverging from the art house leanings of “Letter from an Unknown Woman” for something more spirited, flashy and commercial, and which is very much in the style of recent Western chick-lit blockbusters such as “The Devil Wears Prada”. Based on the popular novel “A Story of Lala’s Promotion” by Li Ke, and designed specifically to appeal to the hip young Chinese market, the film was a massive hit at the domestic box office, pulling in more than 100 million yuan.
Xu plays the titular Du Lala, a woman in her late twenties who finally manages to land a job as a lowly secretary in the sales department of a prestigious international firm. Hard working, dedicated, and overflowing with ideas and energy, she quickly catches the eye of her superiors, in particular that of sales director Huang Wei (Taiwanese popstar Stanley Huang). Lala’s efforts pay off as she rises quickly up the corporate ladder, and even manages to win the notoriously tough and grumpy man’s heart in the process. Unfortunately, there are still a number of obstacles in her way, both on the job and off, as Huang Wei’s ex (Karen Mok, “Tempting Heart”), who just happens to be another company director, looks to make trouble for her new love rival.
The most obvious point of comparison for “Go Lala Go!” is Zhang Ziyi’s recent romantic comedy “Sophie’s Revenge”, though within just a few minutes it becomes fairly apparent that Xu Jinglei is aiming for style rather than substance. The film certainly goes all out in this respect, with its attractive cast being clad in bright and fashionable clothes, and with all of the sets, offices and apartments having been interior designed with clear attention to hip urban detail. Xu’s direction is fittingly bright and kinetic, with lots of visual flourishes, cartoonish touches and fast editing, giving it an almost manic feel at times. She makes good use of the different locations, with the film switching gratuitously, though pleasantly, between the hustle and bustle of the big city and the glorious beaches of Thailand.
All of this works well, and the film serves up a good amount of eye candy and makes for very easy viewing – aside from some shockingly blatant instances of product placement, which frequently see the camera going out of its way to pan and focus on an advert for no discernable reason. Still, though this might be annoying for those viewers who care, it does in a way fit in with the film’s markedly materialistic themes, as it basically charts and promotes the chasing of corporate and financial success, without anything much in the way of life lessons learned. Again, this in itself is not really a problem, and the film does at least promote doing so through hard work and graft rather than anything sly, and since this is a message likely to ring true with its target audience in China.
In terms of comedy, the film is frequently very funny, mainly since Xu is not above poking fun at herself, with Lala being a likeable heroine who is thankfully never made too ditzy to be believable as a corporate climber. Although the humour is not as sharp or biting as in “Sophie’s Revenge”, it does make for a decent amount of laughs, with most of the cast being on charismatic and wacky form. The romance is similarly light, and though the film never really hits any truly convincing emotional notes, the courtship between Lala and Huang Wei is engaging enough, and Xu does manage to work in a few warnings regarding the dos and don’ts of office based relationships.
As a result, although “Go Lala Go!” never really challenges or makes any notable statements, it stands as a perfectly entertaining piece of fluff which should be enjoyed by all fans of romantic comedies. Whilst as a director Xu Jinglei is certainly capable of more depth and artistry, she turns her hand to popcorn cinema with reasonable success, with her usual meticulous approach and effort still very much apparent.
Jinglei Xu (director) / Ke Li (novel), Yun Wang, Jinglei Xu, Meng Zhao (screenplay)
CAST: Jinglei Xu … Du Lala
Stanley Huang … Wang Wei
Karen Mok … Mei Gui – Rose