With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Thursday, September 19, 2013

ACF 2032: MY LUCKY STAR opens tomorrow in select cities

China Lion Film Distribution
My Lucky Star
Directed by Dennie Gordon
Starring ZHANG Ziyi, Leehom WANG, and Terri KWAN
China, 2013, 114 minutes

My Lucky Star is a most charming and delightful romantic comedy. It opens tomorrow, Friday, September 20th, 2013, at select theaters throughout North America and Hawaii. Release locations, subject to change, are Boston, Chicago, the Dallas/Plano Area, Honolulu, Houston, the Los Angeles Metro Area/Orange County, the New York Metro Area, the San Francisco/Bay Area, Seattle, the Washington, D.C. Metro Area, the Toronto Metro Area, and the Vancouver Metro Area. Check local listings for theaters and showtimes.

Sophie at her job at a travel agency

Zhang Ziyi stars as Sophie, a talented, aspiring cartoonist. Although skilled at drawing her romantic stories, she hasn't yet become successful enough to earn a living at it and has a day job at the Beijing Feng Guang Travel Agency. She's the company's worse customer service phone reps because she daydreams and doesn't pay attention to what the customers are saying. Her personal life is not anything to rave about either. She lives in an apartment off an alley, has no taste when it comes to clothing, and is pretty clumsy. Her love life is non-existent.

Sophie's taste in couture lacks refinement

Things change when she wins a sweepstake for a 5 day trip to Singapore. There she runs into David Yan (Leehom Wang), a secret agent. His current assignment is to recovery the Lucky Star Diamond, which has been stolen from an exhibition in London and is a crystal oscillator for a high-energy laser. In other words, it has the potential to be a most devastating weapon.

The hero in Sophie's comic looks like real life secret agent David Yan

David also happens to look exacttly like the hero in Sophie's comics. Naturally she's attracted to him, which results in her getting involved in the operation. The infamous Mr. Gao (Jack Koo), a ruthless killer, is to retrieve the diamond from Li wan and bring it to Charlize Won (Terri Kwan), a.k.a. the "Black Widow," who marries rich men and kills them for the inheritance. But Sophie gets in the middle of the transaction and inadvertently becomes the key to making the Lucky Star accessible. Hilarious hijinks ensue.

Sophie acts to seduce Li Wan, seller of the Lucky Star Diamond

My Lucky Star, it should be mentioned, has absolutely nothing to do with My Lucky Stars, the 1985 Hong Kong action comedy that starred Jackie Chan, Yuen Biao, and Sammo Hung, who also directed. Rather it marks the return of  Ms. Zhang to a role she first played in Sophie's Revenge, the 2009 comedy that became the highest grossing romantic comedy hit in the history of Chinese cinema. In that first film, Sophie's fiance´ calls off their wedding because he's fallen for a gorgeous actress, and Sophie tries to win him back. It played at the 2010 New York Asian Film Festival, and my review of it can be found here. (Sophie's Revenge is available on Netflix streaming and as a Region I DVD from Amazon and Best Buy.)

David and Sophie

My Lucky Star, however, is not really a sequel; it's simply the second film in what hopefully will be a continuing series; it completely stands on it own. While I urge you to see Sophie's Revenge, you don't need to be familiar with it at all to understand and appreciate My Lucky Star.

My Lucky Star succeeds largely because of Zhang Ziyi. (I'm using the Chinese arrangement of family name first, personal name second, as that is how it appears in the film's credits. She is usually credited as Ziyi Zhang in Western releases.) She is a most talented actress, beyond her physical looks and abilities. She has a real feel for comedy and is capable of remarkable expressiveness. Watch her face early in My Lucky Star when her hero frees her ankles fro restraints. There are some slight gestures that she makes that go way beyond what's called for to express sensual delight.

Sophie in disguise as a gondolier in Macau

As a child, Zhang studied dance. This background stood her in good stead for her martial arts roles in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Wong Kar Wai's recently-release The Grandmaster, the films for which she probably is most widely known in the Western world. I wonder of that training was also useful to her in portraying the physically awkward -- read klutz -- that is Sophie. In any case she is both convincingly and comically uncoordinated when that's called for.

I must also give credit to director Dennie Gordon. A graduate of Yale's School of Drama, she has directed over 100 hour of network television, the teen cult hit Joe Dirt (2001), the romantic comedy What a Girl Wants (2003), and the Warner Bros. comedy New York Minute (2004). Her work caught the attention of Song Ge, General Manager at Wanda Media, who had produced Sophie's Revenge and wanted to work with Ziyi again. One of the challenges Ms. Gordon obviously had to deal with concerned language, namely the fact that the production was conducted in Mandarin, Cantonese and English. She's reportedly the first American woman to have handled this type of situation and she's done a fantastic job.

Sophie to the rescue! (?)

So if you're in the mood for a wonderful rom-com and can make it to one of the screening sites, do so without hesitation. If you don't live in or near one of these cities, hope for a Region 1 DVD release, which I consider likely.

ACF rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars; highly recommended.