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'Sophie's Revenge' Satisfies to a Point

2009/08/20 | Permalink | Source

By Lee Hyo-won
Staff Reporter

"Sophie's Revenge", which marks Zhang Ziyi's first romantic comedy role and stint as a producer, can be likened to a protein shake. It offers all the expected ingredients ― romance, slapstick and melodrama ― as well as the easy, genre-approved characters and plotline, and even a wrap-around opening story that foretells the fairytale ending.

Mix those up with heavy doses of influence from peers "Bridget Jones's Diary" and "My Sassy Girl", and add in some "Amelie"-style live-action-meets-animation and New York chick-lit dialogue in Mandarin. Director Eva Jin shapes the cliched mess into something edible with a sweet aftertaste ― but like most artificial sources of protein it is not completely filling.

The "pan-Asian" production, however, tactfully serves its magical purpose, as diet drinks do for those eager to become slim. Featuring some adorable visual gimmickry ― including, naturally, its star cast ― Sophie's Revenge is unashamed and unrelenting in its effort to make you laugh and swoon, no matter how passe the tactics are.

Popular cartoonist Sophie (Zhang) is devastated when her perfect fiance Jeff (South Korean heartthrob So Ji-sub) leaves her for another woman two months before the wedding. (In his Chinese language film debut, the "Rough Cut" star softens his edge to play a modern-day prince charming with perfectly styled hair that could probably withstand a tornado. When he is not wearing one of his finely pressed suits, he calculatingly appears wearing only a towel and offers hints of his hallmark attention to detail in portraying the rather blank, uncommunicative character).

Her heart tattered and torn, the heroine is seen resorting to one bag of potato chips after another, though she never loses her cuteness in her array of candy-colored pajamas. Sophie manages to get herself together, determined to show the wrath of a woman scorned ― to win back Jeff, and then dump him herself.

The only problem, however, is that Sophie feels terribly outmatched by her ex's new girlfriend, who is none other than the beautiful actress Anna (played by "Shinjuku Incident" beauty Fan Bingbing). But she finds the perfect accomplice in a charming photographer, Gorden (popular Taiwanese actor-singer Peter Ho), who has a complicated history with Anna.

The film will most likely be remembered as the "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" heroine's initiation into the world of the not-so-graceful. Zhang kisses goodbye her charismatic martial arts moves and glamorous period costumes and is seen rolling, falling, and crawling around with mascara running down her face.

It also invites laughter through Sophie's two sidekicks ― a gold digger who tied the knot too early and a playgirl who refuses to settle down ― who get involved in spoofy subplots and gossip about love, marriage and divorce.

But "Sophie's Revenge" takes a more dramatic turn into a personal journey, expressing that a woman cannot her lose dignity along with her heart and fall prey to misguided obsessions. Cartoon-rendered drawings and graphics depicting Sophie's shaky psyche are blended in deliciously with the kitsch props and costumes. While not groundbreaking, they add a dimensionality and believability to Sophie's identity as a cartoonist.

Another redeeming factor is that Sophie's archenemy is not the typical villain but a cross between an amiable rude person and irascible diva. The character is strangely compelling in her comic mockery of old Hollywood glamour and beau monde China.

A point of interest is that the story, set in Beijing, features top Asian stars and Chinese remakes of bouncy K-pop tunes, but shows no hint of regional color and strictly limits the camera to cosmopolitan venues like gyms and modern art galleries.

Now showing in theaters. Distributed by CJ Entertainment.

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