China, 2012, 117 minutes
Caught in the Web is a contemporary drama helmed by veteran Chinese director CHEN Kaige, whose previous works include such notable films as Farewell My Concubine (1993), The Emperor and the Assassin (1998), and The Promise (2005). It will open in the U.S. tomorrow, Wednesday, November 27th, 2013 at the Village East theater in New York. The film is slated to open in Los Angeles and other markets on Friday, December 6th. (Check local listings.)
YE Langui (GAO Yuanyuan) is the executive secretary to SHEN Liushu (WANG Xueqi), the CEO of a large Chinese company. Before work one morning, she goes for a medical exam for health insurance and is confronted with the astonishing news that she has advanced lymphatic cancer. Arrangements are made for her to be admitted to a hospital to begin treatment in a week, although the prognosis is grim.
|On the 812 bus, YE Lanqui refuses to give up her seat to an elderly gentleman.
Proceeding to work on a bus, YE is understandably absorbed in her thoughts. When she refuses to give her seat to an elderly man, she becomes the object of scorn and derision by other passengers. Aspiring television reporter YANG Jiaqi (WANG Luodan) uses her cell phone to record the incident on video. She follows YE after she gets off the bus and videos a brief interview of her.
Arriving at work, YE requests a week's leave and a substantial loan from SHEN, without giving any indication of why she needs the time and money. Breaking down at one point, she is gently comforted by SHEN. Just then his wife, Mo Xiaoyu (actress CHEN Hong) comes in the room. Convinced that her wealthy and powerful husband is having an affair with YE, she storms out of the office. SHEN, agrees to give YE the loan and time off that she's requested. Although he will subsequently display the arrogance that often arises from wealth and power, he has a not-inconsequential vein of decency as well.
|CHEN Ruoxi (left) and YANG Jiaqi
Meanwhile YANG Jiaqi has shown her footage to CHEN Ruoxi (actress YAO Chen), a TV and Internet producer who realizes it's potential and takes credit for it. YAO is in a relationship with YANG Shoucheng (actor Mark CHAO), who is Jiaqi's cousin and who was with her on the bus. The three of them are currently sharing an apartment
The bus footage goes viral and YE, who initially is identified only as "Sunglasses Girl," is widely reviled for her behavior. Of course, this reaction occurs without the knowledge of the horrible news she had just received from the doctor. YE's situation is made even worse after she is not only identified but also accused by an anonymous caller of being a home-wrecker who is sleeping with her married boss. This situation also leads to problems for SHEN and the company he heads, because it is now known that YE, a.k.a. "Sunglasses Girl," was his secretary.
Over the following week, YE tries to escape from both her medical problem and the increasingly viscous media scrutiny to which she is being subjected. SHEN has to deal with the concomitant public relations problems that have arisen at a crucial point in negotiations related to an important business merger, as well as with his very unhappy wife. Meanwhile Jiaqi, Ruoxi, and Shoucheng have their own various related issues.
In Caught in the Web, international award-winning Chinese director CHEN Kaige has created a brilliant new addition to world cinema, a timely, pertinent and on the money film about the piranha-like feeding frenzy of the media and the webizens it serves. It's most auspicious first release from newcomer levelFILM. With its universal themes, I'll be amazed if the rights for a Hollywood remake of Caught in the Web aren't snapped up quickly, unless they already have been.
ACF Rating: 4 out of 4 stars; highest recommendation.