Friday, June 25, 2010

NYAFF ’10: Sophie’s Revenge

They are called “chick flicks,” because guys supposedly do not enjoy relationship comedies written from a woman’s perspective. The real reason for these films’ gender gap is that they always seem to star protagonists that are supposed to be attractive, but could not interest us any less (yes, this very definitely includes Sarah Jessica Parker). However, when Zhang Ziyi and Fan Bingbing make a rom-com, any man would take notice. Happily, such is the case with Eva Jin’s glittery Sophie’s Revenge (trailer here), which also features some ridiculously cartoonish revenge fantasies that probably explain its selection for the 2010 New York Asian Film Festival.

Sophie is a beautiful graphic novelist. It is hard to believe she was dumped by her milquetoast boyfriend Jeff, but she explains it all during a flashback. Jeff threw her over for Joanna, who, played by Fan, is also hot and happens to be a famous movie star who swept the impressionable doctor off his feet after he treated her. Rather than getting on with her life, Sophie obsesses, hatching a plan to win back Jeff, only to dump him shortly thereafter. Or so she says. Her friends Lily and Lucy are not so sure revenge is her ultimate goal (and yes, they are pretty cute too). Still, she is able to enlist the aid of Gordon, a Taiwanese photographer who has his own history with Joanna. Of course, he seems like Mr. Right for Sophie, but she has her revenge to worry about.

Granted, the notion of Zhang (who also served as producer) getting dumped stretches credibility right from the start, but she proves to be a good sport, gamely enduring all manner of humiliations. Indeed, she and Fan sparkle in the film and Ruby Lin and Chen Yao add charm and energy as Sophie’s cronies. The men though are a pretty dull and uncharismatic lot, even including Peter Ho as nice guy Gordon. Still, the rom-com proceedings never get too cloying thanks to some quirky animation, over-the-top violent flights-of-fancy, and a refreshingly scatological sense of humor.

While some of Sophie’s embarrassments are truly wince-inducing, Revenge moves along briskly and has a good heart. Thanks to Zhang’s winning presence as a surrogate Carrie Bradshaw, it all works fairly well as a light and frothy entertainment. Its selection is definitely something of a departure for the New York Asian Film Festival, but to recap, it does have Zhang Ziyi, Fan Bingbing, and cartoon violence, so any guy will be able to handle it just fine. It screens Tuesday (6/29) and Saturday (7/3) as NYAFF continues at the Walter Reade Theater, right in the heart of New York’s Lincoln Center.