Romantic comedies continue to prove popular in mainstream Chinese cinemas, glossy tales of modern urban relationships consistently ranking amongst the biggest domestic box office achievers. The 2009 Zhang Ziyi starring “Sophie’s Revenge” was one of the first runaway successes of this recent trend, and so it’s not much of a shock that director Eva Jin now returns with more of the same in “One Night Surprise”, revolving around a thirty something woman who falls pregnant to an unknown suitor after a drunken office party. Boosted by a Pan-Asian cast of big name attractive stars led by top actress Fan Bingbing and a host of suitably handsome actors, the film was another box office smash, emerging as one of the highest earning genre outings of 2013.
Fan Bingbing plays Mi Xue, a creative director at a prestigious advertising firm, who has dedicated most of her life to her career and who as a result finds herself still single in her thirties and in danger of being labelled a ‘leftover woman’. Things change when she finds herself unexpectedly pregnant after having far too much to drink at her birthday party, an awkward state of affairs given that she can’t remember who she ended up sleeping with. With the help of her best friend Weiwei (Pace Wu, “Panda Express”), she starts trying to figure out who the father might be, the prime suspects being Zhang Tongyu (Aarif Lee, “Bruce Lee, My Brother”), a young co-worker with a crush on her, her sporty godson Lin Zhibo (Jiang Jingfu, “ A Wedding Invitation”), her handsome boss Bill (Korean/American actor and model Daniel Henney, “The Spy: Undercover”) and wealthy new money fish soup magnate Lu Dahu (popular actor and singer Leon Lai, “White Vengeance”). Needless to say, things soon get complicated, leaving Mi Xue with the usual life changing decisions to be made.
As with “Sophie’s Revenge”, though there’s nothing new with the plot or approach of “One Night Surprise”, it’s a slick and savvy film which manages to get most things right and which should go down well with its target demographic as a result. Mi Xue is a likeable enough sort who it’s easy to root for, and the fact that it’s obvious from the start who the father is never gets in the way of things too much, with a fair amount of fun along the way. This is mainly since director Eva Jin treats the material with the light touch it deserves, with few pretentions of meaningfulness and an avoidance of the kind of dragged out melodrama which can make such films a chore to sit through.
While some of the cutesy moments and flights of fantasy don’t really add anything they’re at least inoffensive, and the film wins some points for a witty script and for managing to work in some reasonably sharp social commentary on the subject of ‘leftover women’ in Chinese society, as well as attitudes to premarital pregnancies and modern relationships in general. It’s still fluffy, product placement heavy wish fulfilment from start to finish, though with a bouncy pace, plenty of nice scenery and some confident handling from Jin, the film is perfectly palatable, and generally hits all the required notes.
The cast are definitely the main draw here, and fans of the stars should get value for money, as all are on charismatic form. Fan Bingbing does a solid job in the lead, looking gorgeous as ever, and if not exactly an everywoman type figure, she shows enough self-depreciation to make her appealing, mixing vulnerability and strength in a way which fits the film’s themes. Her four suitors are equally fun, Daniel Henney and Leon Lai in particular, the former chewing the scenery in the closest thing that the film has to a villainous role, and the latter getting laughs by playing amusingly against type. Though the film doesn’t have much emotional depth, its romance is engaging despite being wholly predictable, and its foregone conclusion is delivered with warmth rather than overdone melodrama.
All of this combines to make “One Night Surprise” one of the better mainstream Chinese romantic comedies of late, at least for those who enjoy the form or who aren’t expecting too much. Eva Jin sticks close to her own successful “Sophie’s Revenge” formula and the film delivers on its modest aims, thanks in part to the big name cast of attractive stars.
Eva Jin (director) / Eva Jin (screenplay)
CAST: Bingbing Fan … Michelle
Aarif Lee … Tony
Daniel Henney … Bill
Jinfu Jiang … Zhibo
Pace Wu … Weiwei
Yanchen Liu … Gigi