“Say Yes” is a Mainland Chinese romantic comedy based on the hugely popular 1991 Japanese television series “101st Proposal”, which was previously adapted for the small screen in Korean a few years back. Sticking to the premise of a working class everyman falling in love with a rich, beautiful cellist, this new version was directed by Taiwanese helmer Leste Chen, who teams again with his “Love on Credit” leading lady Lin Chiling, joined by the ever likeable Huang Bo (“Lost in Thailand”) as her unlikely suitor. An official co-production with Fuji Television, the film was a considerable hit back in China, pulling in nearly 3 billion yen during its first few weeks of release.
The film opens with Huang Bo as construction worker Huang Da out on the 99th in a string of unsuccessful blind dates. Although his rendezvous doesn’t work out, he runs into the gorgeous Yeh Shun (Lin Chiling), a cello player nursing a broken heart after being jilted at the alter by the possibly dead (!) Xu Zhuo (Godfrey Gao, “All About Women”). The two quickly become friends, though Huang Bo finds himself wanting more, despite her refusal to commit or to take him seriously. Regardless, he finds the confidence to step up his romantic pursuit, pushing her to face up to her past and to make a life changing decision about her future.
As a romantic comedy, “Say Yes” is at once both utterly predictable and pleasingly unconventional, earning top marks for its choice of Huang Bo as leading man, one of China’s most charismatic and versatile actors. Undoubtedly somewhere far down the list when it comes to glamorous male paramours, his presence immediately sets the film apart, and though it basically revolves around Yeh Shun’s struggle to accept the less than attractive Huang Da as a viable partner, this does ground things somewhat, at least in certain respects. This also marks the film as romantic wish fulfilment of a different kind, seeming to offer the average male viewer the hope of landing a girlfriend with the looks of Lin Chiling, while vaguely nudging female audience members to look beyond physical appearance and put more value on kindness, devotion and security. Whatever Leste Chen’s intentions, the film is one of the few genre outings in China to openly acknowledge the class gap between rich and poor, and while the script only pays lip service to resulting issues, it feels less materialistic than other recent rom-coms as a result, which is definitely a good thing.
Though this message, and indeed the central relationship as a whole never comes across as terribly heartfelt, there’s a definite spark between the two stars, and their fun chemistry helps to keep things engaging, Chen wisely taking a light and unpretentious approach and avoiding too much melodrama or anything heavy. Also in the film’s favour is a surprisingly bizarre and random plot, which packs in some odd twists along the way to its inevitable conclusion. Though in fairness this is unlikely to have been intentional, the way in which Chen throws in a series of belief-stretching contrivances and soap opera clichés makes for some effective humour, which sits comfortably with the surprisingly funny comic relief, actress Qin Hailu (“A Simple Life”) doing a sterling job in the often thankless wacky best friend role. Chen has a good sense of pacing, which distracts from some of the nonsensical plotting, and the film has a fluffy, glossy and very commercial look, benefitting from the fact that the product placement not as offensive as in other genre efforts.
Although there’s nothing special enough about “Say Yes” to make it appeal beyond the usual romantic comedy fanbase, it’s definitely more enjoyable and palatable than most, and it at least offers a few variations on the usual themes. Huang Bo is as fun to watch as ever and Lin Chiling pouts prettily, and with Leste Chen doing a perfectly serviceable job as director the whole thing comes together really quite nicely.
Leste Chen (director)
CAST: Bo Huang … Huang Da
Chiling Lin … Ye Xun
Hailu Qin … Tao Zi
Godfrey Gao … Xu Zhuo