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“Love on Credit” is a Mainland Chinese romantic comedy with a financial theme, directed by Taiwanese helmer Leste Chen, previously responsible for “Eternal Summer” and horror “The Heirloom”. The film is basically a vehicle for Taiwanese model turned actress Lin Chi Ling (“Red Cliff”), with her playing identical twin sisters wrestling with love, life and money. Vying for the sisters’ hearts are three eligible actors in Aloys Chen (“Rest on Your Shoulder”), Liao Fan (“Ocean Flame”), and Tony Yang (“In Case of Love”).
Lin Chi Ling plays Xiaohong, a ruthless, money chasing woman who is on the verge of ending a 10 year affair with his boss after it becomes clear that he is unlikely to leave his wife. She also plays the far more innocent Xiaoqing, whose long term relationship with boyfriend Jiang Cheng (Liao Fan) runs into trouble after he is tricked by a friend into giving away their life savings. The two women are faced with romantic complications and choices when Xiaohong meets the super-rich but troubled Zhang Quan (Aloys Chen), who immediately falls head over heels for her, and Xiaoqing starts dating wealthy young businessman Shen Tao (Tony Yang), deciding she has had enough of struggling to get by with Jiang Cheng.
Despite its Taiwanese director and casting (plus a soundtrack and theme song by popular Taiwanese band Sodagreen), “Love on Credit” is very much in line with other contemporary Mainland Chinese rom-coms, dealing mainly with the eternal battle between marrying for love or money. To its credit, the film does try to deal with the topic in a fairly even manner, playing it out through the two sisters’ very different personalities and relationship issues and exploring its many complications. Although obviously as a romantic comedy the film has an emphasis on love and the heart, it never paints things as being too black and white, with a semi-realistic portrayal of just how difficult life can be for a couple with financial difficulties, and how comfort and security do count for a lot. The cast are all on reasonable form, Lin Chi Ling just about managing to juggle her two roles (mainly differentiated through Xiaoqing’s vaguely more mousey dress sense and glasses), and though the film doesn’t have much of an emotional impact, its characters are likeable and sympathetic enough to make things fun and engaging.
Unsurprisingly, the film’s messages do get lost somewhat in its gleeful, wish fulfilment depiction of rampant materialism, a large amount of the running time being taken up with the camera drooling over expensive clothes, luxury goods and huge mansion like houses, their prices flashing up on screen alarmingly. The film’s production values are definitely above average, and Chen’s direction is slick and glammed-up to the max, making for a great deal of eye candy and an alluring picture of the lives of the new Chinese rich. This helps to keep the film interesting and moving along at a bouncy pace throughout its short and painless hour and a half running time, as does some light and generally quite amusing comedy – oddly, the film avoids any of the mistaken identity gags which might have been expected given the whole twins premise.
Though there’s nothing special here, Leste Chen is a decent director, and “Love on Credit” is an above average romantic comedy that should be enjoyed by fans of the form or the amiable and good looking cast. Though it flirts with substance, the film is best approached as a harmless piece of popcorn fluff, viewers being advised to switch off their brains, sit back and let the lavishness of it all wash over them.
Leste Chen (director)
CAST: Chiling Lin