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Happy Times (2001)

Cast: Zhao Benshan, Zhao Benshan, Dong Jie, more...
Director: Zhang Yimou, Zhang Yimou
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Rating:
Studio: Columbia TriStar
Genre: Foreign, China
Running Time: 102 min.
Languages: Mandarin
Subtitles: English, French
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This title is currently out of print.

Synopsis
A man stretching the truth for his own sake soon begins doing the same for someone else, with increasingly complicated results, in this gentle comedy from China. Zhao (Zhao Benshan) is a guy in his early fifties who's out of work but still wants to marry his girlfriend (Dong Lifan). However, his often cranky sweetheart thinks he runs a hotel, and Zhao is trying to keep the illusion alive with the help of his pal Li (Li Xuejian) by turning an abandoned bus into a "love hotel" for couples who lack privacy in their homes. But business isn't all that good, since the old-fashioned Zhao asks unmarried couples to keep their doors open to ensure nothing untoward happens. As Zhao tries to convince his girlfriend to walk down the aisle with him -- and struggles to raise the money she demands first -- she introduces him to Wu Jing (Dong Jie), the blind teenage stepdaughter she inherited from her marriage to her now-deceased first husband. The woman insists that Zhao give Wu Jing a job in his hotel; since the bus/hotel has been towed away, this isn't a practical possibility. Zhao and Li put Wu Jing through a fake job interview to keep up appearances, and when she breaks down in tears talking about her deadbeat father, he decides he has to do something for her. Zhao moves Wu Jing into his home, and with the help of his friends, sets up a phony massage therapy center where Wu Jing works with the "clients" -- actually Zhao's friends, most of whom are also unemployed. But the bigger and more complex the illusion becomes, the harder it is to maintain, though Zhao feels compelled to do so for the sake of the girl's feelings. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Wise Waif Weathers Woe by squad January 13, 2005 - 2:14 PM PST
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1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
A lonely heart loser finds a fat gold digger with a fatter son and a blind Cinderella of a step-daughter. The fat son steals the blind girl's food. I see congestive heart failure in his future (hopefully but not in the movie). The gold digger dumps blind Cinderella into the care of the lonely heart loser. Cinderella has picked up masseuse skills sometime in her life, and lonely heart loser with the help of a humorous cast of friends sets her up in a Potemkim (mock) parlor in an attempt to placate gold digger. How will this house of cards resolve? The film has great heart and is plausible enough to knock you off your emotional feet. I repeat, knock you off your emotional feet. Even sadder than "Failan", so don't watch this if you are feeling vulnerable just now. Otherwise, get out your hankies and dive in.

Happy, and Sad, Times Hotel by underdog January 6, 2003 - 12:07 PM PST
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7 out of 8 members found this review helpful
Not one of Zhang's best but this comedy-drama is still an often wonderful mix. It starts off as if it will be a light comedy but then turns into something darker, deeper, more profound, going off in unexpected directions. It's this occasional aimlessness that is both the film's strength and weakness, for some more narrative consistency would have made this a classic film, up there with his "Ju Dou" and "Raise the Red Lantern." As it is, the story is often touching and funny. Benshan Zhao and Jie Dong are a delight -- she will remind you of a Chinese Audrey Hepburn (or Tatou). I look forward to more from her.

A near-return to greatness for Zhang Yimou.




GreenCine Member Rating
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(Average 7.36)
55 Votes
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