Too real, too good, not what you think it is
Tony Thomas | SUNNY ISLES BEACH, FL USA | 07/12/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I played the personals a lot in in my own life and I found a woman I will share the rest of our lives that way. I expected this film to be the usual light comedy about the personals with a happy romantic ending.
However, this movie is about so much more than that. This movie is about loneliness, separation, the lack of love and the fear it brings into our personal life. This movie is about how in the modern alienated society we are separated in little cubicles blind to each other, screaming for love inside, mute, proper, and cold on the outside.
What comes through best in the many inappropriate people our heroine meets is not their silliness or inappropriateness, but the pain in their wanting. What comes through is how in observing their complete unconcern for our heroine, who she is, what she wants, what she enjoys, our heroine feels numbed, frozen deserted in a desert of boredom. They are cut off from real love, real affection, and real inimacy, just as we believe our heroine is also desperately cut off from her feelings and needs, having left her job, spending her time meeting countless men from the ads in a tea house.
Even the one man who is a friend of hers, not a lover, a married doctor with a child, opens up to her that he is not really who she thinks he is in the most intimate of ways.
All along we know our heroine has a sickness in the heart that we don't exactly know about that she reveals in telephone messages she leaves every morning, for whom we don't know, and why she gets no returns we learn at the end.
In a way, the process here is like mourning, getting the hubris of loneliness, the sadness of so many useless men out of her system to highlight the pain and separation our heroine and the rest of us face hen we seek love.
There is more that unfolds that I can tell. We must leave you to see this movie.
The acting here is super, especially if you like good character acting. I found one of the most touching of her suitors to be the school teacher in his 50s maybe because I am a college teacher in my fifties. He doesn't know what to say, is so unused to a social occaision that he brings his own soda to the tea house, and proposes marriage without asking a word from our heroine. Even after she tells him how inappropriate this is, without even mentioning he is 20 years older than she is, he wants he to make arrangements to meet his parents in th South of China. The pain on his face, the insistent sincerity, the way you feel all of him is engaged, even though he is completely lost, really hit me.
He says all of that, but you can tell by his face how desperately he wants that, how crazily he wants her love, how empty his life has been of affection.
After writing this review, I think I better see this movie again tonight."
Funny and cleverly written
Tony Thomas | 10/01/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is interesting. From the start, you would be wondering why a pretty doctor like Wu (played by Rene Liu) would want to place a personal ad. As the movie progresses, you start to learn about her life and background besides all the crazy blind dates she has (many funny scenes on the blind dates). Then comes the ending when the true reasons unfold. Rene Liu performed very well as an actress in this movie. It's a good movie to see."
Humor and heartache
avoraciousreader | Somewhere in the Space Time Continuum | 08/26/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"God, I love this movie! At last, a Taiwanese film with heart and depth, and complexity to really sink one's teeth into beneath a simple and unassuming premise.
Du Jiazheng ("Rene" Liu Joying) is a thirty-something woman, an attractive and successful ophthalmologist, who advertises in the newspaper, looking for a husband. We go with her (under the assumed name of "Miss Wu") on a series of dates with a hilarious assortment of bizarre characters. It would be hard to pick a single standout suitor, but my favorite line has to be "Besides drinking, you must have other hobbies?" Well, it turns out he does, but I'm sure Du wishes she hadn't asked. It is a joy to watch Liu's face as she reacts to her dates' revelations and ploys with bemused and intelligent aplomb.
In between these disastrous meetings, Du makes phone calls in which she recounts them to an answering machine, or writes in a diary. She also runs into a teacher she had had in college, Professor Luo, vigorous and charismatic in red turban-like hat and pants, black suspenders and a white T-shirt. She unburdens herself, and receives sage advice and comfort, a scene that is presented in brief interludes between the dates.
Initially, it seems that "The Personals" is going to be a whimsical comedy about modern dating in Taipei, not much different from typical Hollywood cinema-by-numbers. But gradually we gather something darker is happening in Du's life, a hint here and there in her conversation with the prospects, then in the phone messages and journal entries, as it becomes apparent they're addressed to an estranged lover.
On my first run through this film, it was the weird dates that dominated, with their inventive oddness and humor. But as soon as it was over, I was compelled to rewind and start again, and this time I found myself paying attention to what had before seemed interstitial material, even fast forwarding through the dates that earlier been the focus.
I won't give away the resolution, except to say that it caught me by surprise on several levels. But beyond the overt ending, and feeding off it, the film ultimately seems to be about how with unthinking cruelty we use others' love, loneliness and desperation to assuage our own.
The cinematography is not in-your-face, but is subtly creative. The dates are filmed from a variety of angles which adds visual interest to the otherwise straight talking faces, and many scenes seem to take a cue from the Japanese director Ozu, with his careful framing. One in particular -- when Du tells the answering machine "I feel like a voyeur [listening to her suitors bare their lives]", the camera is peering in at her, voyeuristically, through a window.
This film won't be for everyone. If you need explosions and car chases to keep your interest, if a movie about relations has to involve thrashing naked bodies or shouting and screaming, if suspense for you is only generated by dark shapes springing from the shadows ... well, give it a pass. But if you like quirky indie flicks that explore emotions and relationships, that put script and acting above special effects and fancy camera work, go ahead and take a chance. Although this film may haunt you, unlike a bad blind date it can only stalk you in your mind. No "Fatal Attraction" scenarios, the worst is that you'll be forced to buy a copy.
Production notes: The subtitles are easily readable, even on the VHS copy I viewed. Crisp white in a good font, with a thin black halo, they stand out against any background yet are not obtrusive. The music was well chosen to the mood, including what I assume is a Chinese cover of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". Unfortunately, none of the characters except Du are specifically credited (though the translation of the credits is sparse); I would be curious to know who played Professor Luo, for one."
A must see
avoraciousreader | 10/09/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The movie has more to it than the laughs. It makes you wonder the true meanings of life. A great movie. Rene Liu truly is one of the best actresses around."