SOUTH KOREA - Chinese actress Tang Wei has a huge fan base in Korea, especially after the release of her 2010 film "Late Autumn," in which she co-starred with popular Korean actor Hyun Bin.
In the romance film directed by Korean director Kim Tae-yong ― the film is also a remake of Korean director Lee Man-hee's iconic 1966 movie of the same title ― Tang starred as Anna, a Chinese-American prisoner who murdered her husband years ago and is released from jail for three days to attend her mother's funeral in Seattle. During her short stay in the city, she falls for Hoon (played by Hyun), a marginalised Korean gigolo.
Tang is starring in another film that takes place in Seattle, this time with famed Chinese actor Wu Xiubo. In the romantic comedy, titled "Finding Mr. Right," Tang plays Jiajia, a pregnant woman who arrives in Seattle to have her rich, married lover's baby. At the airport Jiajia meets Frank (played by Wu), a driver who is there to pick her up; he used to work as a physician in Beijing.
The film arrives in Korean theatres next month, after enjoying much success in China. It grossed over $83 million, after being released in China in the spring.
In an interview with the Korean promoters of the film, Tang, who is best known to the world for her performance in Ang Lee's 2007 sensual thriller "Lust, Caution," said she and her character have "nothing in common." In the beginning of the film, Jiajia, donning designer clothes and carrying a brand-name handbag, is almost obnoxious and rude.
Upon her arrival in Seattle, Jiajia heads to an illegal but comfortable maternity house run by a Taiwanese woman (played by Elaine Jin) where she would stay until the baby is born. She demands the best room in the house, even though it has already been reserved by another person, saying she will pay double the price.
For the first few months, Jiajia continues to enjoy her lavish lifestyle ― thanks to her "unlimited" credit card provided by her married lover back in China. But everything changes when her boyfriend is imprisoned for a white-collar crime in Beijing, and all of his property is confiscated by the authorities. She is now penniless in the foreign city that she has romanticized ever since watching the famous American romantic comedy "Sleepless in Seattle."
When she realises there is no one to support her, Jiajia starts to look at things differently. She moves to a modest room in the maternity house, and is hired as a maid there while pregnant ― doing all kinds of domestic affairs from cooking to cleaning the toilet. She also forms a genuine friendship with the gentle, kindhearted Frank and his teenage daughter Julie, who have been struggling since his divorce.
Though the movie claims it is a romantic comedy, the film feels much more like a tale about growing up as well as a genuine friendship ― or "romance" ― between the two struggling and highly flawed individuals.
Jiajia transforms from an almost immature, material-obsessed woman into a much more nuanced character by the end ― disillusioned, awakened and inspired by her experience. Though they sometimes lack chemistry, both Tang and Wu are convincing as their characters, making the film generally enjoyable in spite of some of its major flaws, including the spotty screenplay.
A Dreamwest Pictures release, "Finding Mr. Right" opens in theatres on Jan. 1.