Happy Times Reviews
The story starts off as a weird comedy, with this man trying to make money. Then he develops a bond with the girl, and then it becomes a good story. It doesn't resolve itself well in the end, but it walks away with a good message and an optimistic view for the characters.
For most of the film, I was on a happy and heartfelt ride with a cast of mostly sympathetic characters charmingly dealing with their dilemma. But then, when I was completely involved with the characters and their mutual predicament, and expecting an ending in accord with the comedic tone of the film, Happy Times wasn't funny anymore. In fact, I was surprised to see the credits roll immediately after tragedy struck.
Here's a film that needs an alternate ending in the bonus material. Or better yet, just don't watch the last scene and make something up yourself. Trust me, you'll feel better.
The film isn't about comedy at all, but somehow, it isn't about tragedy, too. It is warm enough to let us laugh and calm enough to get us touched. The performance is quite convincing, but the script is not intriguing. Overall, the neo realist film is a fine work, but not Yimou's best.
Dong was chosen among 40,000 girls who applied on the internet for the role of a blind girl
she's really good at acting..
In an effort to win the hand of a 'chunky' woman (Lifan Dong), Zhao (Benshan Zhao) claims he runs the Happy Times Hotel, when in reality, he's a retired factory worker, and his 'hotel' is actually an old bus painted red inside by Zhao and his American obsessed friend, Little Fu (Biao Fu). They call the bus Happy Times Hut and intend to charge lovers a fee to use it, in the hope of raising 50 grand so Zhao can marry his 'chunky' love interest. In the end, Zhao isn't thrilled with the bus idea and won't let the couples close the door, which brings a quick end to the Happy Times Hut.
Meanwhile the 'chunky' woman, who lives with her overweight son (Qibin Leng) and blind stepdaughter, Wu Ying (Jie Dong), convinces Zhao to give Wu Ying a job at his 'hotel' to keep her out of the house and out of her hair. Zhao quickly finds himself playing the role of boss and caring father figure to Ying as he and his co-worker friends create a faux pa massage parlor in which Ying can work.
As with Yimou Zhang's other films, Happy Times is filmed in Chinese with English subtitles. Although many people shy away from subtitled foreign films, I find that after watching several of them, it's no longer an issue. Anymore, it's sometimes difficult to remember which films were dubbed and which were subtitled.
From films like the critically acclaimed Raise the Red Lantern (1991), it's apparent Zhang can do drama, however, with Happy Times we see he has a knack for comedy as well. The comedy is well timed, there's even a few sight gags along the way, such as Fu's Popeye shirt.
The 'father-daughter' relationship which grows between Zhao and Ying is not only a touching story, but provides many laughs along the way. Both are great actors and bring life to their characters. The addition of Fu and Zhao's other friends, gives the film a sense of comradery. Also, the scenes with the chunky stepmother and her chunky son are entertaining as well.
Despite the title, Happy Times is not all happy, but it is a really good film full of great acting, great comedy, and a story that will keep you intrigued, right up to the credit roll.