Friday, September 09, 2011

Love in Space and Other Points

In space no one can hear you sweet talk. It comes through loud and clear in Sydney and Beijing though, but a Chinese astronaut’s two sisters still are not hearing much of it. Of course, they are doing their best to sabotage their budding romances while their big sis orbits the Earth with her ex in Wing Shya and Tony Chan’s latest multi-character rom-com, Love in Space (trailer here), which opens today in New York.

After years of training, Rose is finally posted to China’s space station. Unfortunately, she is serving under Michael. Each blames the other for their breakup, suggesting perhaps communication was the major issue. Lily also left home to study art in Sydney. However, a bad break-up left her with a serious case of germ-phobic OCD. Giving up painting, she mostly just cleans her apartment compulsively. Yet, Johnny, the intrepid young garbage collector, will try to win her over.

Back at home, Peony still lives with their fussing mother Mary, despite her fame as actress. She is not very good though, as her recent win for worst actress at China’s equivalent of the Razzies attests. Determined to improve, she works incognito as a waitress to prepare for her upcoming musical romance. There Wen Feng, a penniless poet, as if there were any other kind, who falls for her as the bespectacled Xiao.

Everyone is ready for some unabashed cuteness, right? If so, the oddball romances of Space definitely deliver. The cast is attractive, the clothes are funky, and the space station effects are better than one might expect. Of course, there are no surprises where each story is headed, which is probably a good thing if you like rom-coms.

Surprisingly, the best story is that of sanitation man Johnny wooing the sanitizing Lilly. Though it might sound like the film’s most self-consciously quirky arc, Gwei Lun Mei’s ridiculously endearing screen presence and Eason Chan’s easy-going charm totally sell it. In contrast, despite the credible sets and frequent nods to Kubrick’s 2001, the space story is the least engaging, perhaps because RenĂ© Liu and Aaron Kwok come across as too similar: dull type-A workaholics.

That leaves Peony/Xiao and Wen Feng, somewhere in the middle. Chinese pop-star Angelababy brings genuine energy and conviction to the former, but Jing Boran’s sullen reserve as latter undercuts their chemistry (despite having been paired up together in the director prior outing Hot Summer Nights). Still, costume and production designer Sean Kunjambu’s color explosions help set the right mood, nonetheless.

Guaranteed to be one hundred percent irony free, Space is a good date movie for cineastes past the getting to know you stage. Frankly, its goofy romanticism is rather refreshing. A guilty pleasure or a sweet confection, depending on your tastes, the China Lion distributed Space opens today (9/9) in New York at the AMC Empire and Loews Village 7.