Hollywood seems intent on remaking almost every reasonably successful film from the ‘80s and ‘90s, so why shouldn’t other countries get in on the act? Thus the appearance of Only You, a Chinese redo of Norman Jewison‘s 1994 rom-com of the same name starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Marisa Tomei in their youthful prime. But while director Zhang Hao‘s debut feature covers roughly all of the same bases as the original, something seems to have been lost in translation.
The hackneyed plot concerns Fang Yuan (Tang Wei of Lust, Caution and Michael Mann‘s Blackhat), a beautiful veterinarian engaged to a man for whom she has little passion. Having been told by not one but two fortunetellers that the true love of her life is named Song Kunming, she’s naturally excited when she receives a call from her fiance’s former college roommate whose name is exactly that. So, accompanied by her married friend Li Xiaotang (Su Yan), she impulsively jets to Milan, Italy to find him.
This formulaic romantic comedy doesn’t play any better in Chinese.
She achieves her goal almost immediately when a handsome stranger who protects her from menacing hooligans turns out to be, yes, Song Kunming (Lian Fan). The pair soon retires to her hotel room, but just before they make love he has a crisis of conscience and confesses that he’s actually Feng Dali, an antiques dealer and restorer.
She angrily orders him away, but the next day a contrite Dali shows up and offers to escort the two women to Florence where the real Kunming is heading. Along the way Dali tries to woo her as himself, and although she finds herself periodically charmed by his gruff masculinity she resolves to stick to her plan. After several mishaps en route, the trio eventually arrives at their destination where they find Kunming, who turns out to be a pompous bore. But yet a further plot twist is in store.
While the original film worked to some degree thanks to the charms of its lead performers, this sluggish remake fails to similarly enchant. This is due partly to the lack of chemistry between Tang and Liao, whose characters prove less than appealing, and partly to the story’s contrivances which director Zhang is unable to make remotely credible.
While it features plenty of gorgeous Italian scenery and the genre’s requisite gauzy montages and lush musical score, Only You mainly proves that China is just as capable as Hollywood of churning out formulaic mediocrities.
Production: Huayi Brothers Media
Cast: Tang Wei, Liao Fan, Su Yan, Fang Fang, Xie Dongshen, Liu Tao
Director: Zhang Hao
Screenwriter: Zhao Shao
Producers: Feng Xiaogang, Zhang Shu
Executive producer: Wang Zhongjun
Director of photography: Shu Chou
Production designer: Di Ren
Composer: On Ge
Not rated, 114 min.