All the time I was watching Sophie’s Revenge (2009), I kept wondering why Zhang Ziyi decided to invest in this film. Either she has money to burn or she believed in the project. Or both.
I can imagine Sophie’s Revenge looking good on paper. As a novel or a comic book, it would have been fun, especially since Sophie is such a quirky character and her nemesis, the actress Joanna (played gleefully by Fan Bingbing) is equally kooky. Given both characters, it could have worked for the big screen, but something is amiss in the film. It just doesn’t work for me but it did work for many Chinese, who gave the film 100 million yuan (US$15 million) in revenues. It also gave the director, Harbin-born Chinese-American Eva Jin, a boost in Hollywood and soon she was signed up in the West.
My friend Raymond Zhou, a columnist and film/cultural critic for China Daily, said the film worked for the Chinese audience due to Eva’s success to “reproduce the Hollywood model in the format and presentation of a mainstream romance”.
But perhaps it is for this reason that I see it as a failure. The film indeed had that Hollywood feel that it totally lacked cultural roots. When I watch Asian films, I look for and love seeing all these cultural traces because that’s the factor that sets them apart from Hollywood. So what’s the point of watching an Asian film that pretends to be Hollywood? I’m better off watching Hollywood then.
The film is not totally a waste though. The animation is very cute and this scene is my favorite when Sophie talks about her dream of a boy who has a box growing out of his head. He writes his thoughts on a piece of paper–called memory slips–everyday and puts them into his head. Then he will review the memory slips and throws away those unpleasant memories so his memory box will be filled only with happy ones.
Sophie: “Do you know, I wish my injury was not to my leg but my brain. Then I’ll have no memories. Without memories, I won’t need to suffer.”
Gordon: “And you’ll feel no happiness either.”
They say that memories are like a set of drawers in your head. Those that you seldom open become harder to unlock when the day comes. They’re also like the memory space of a hard drive. You have to delete some memories in order to make room for new ones.
If only it is that easy to forget bad memories and delete the painful ones, ne?
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