Happy Times - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Happy Times Reviews

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April 21, 2009
WOW. Zhang Yimou is a God. Roger Ebert is a Cunt.
March 1, 2009
very sweet film. Yimou takes a break from the epics(hero) and im glad.
February 28, 2009
A great film about the human heart. Though not as happy as the title suggests!
November 23, 2008
really took me by surprise how good this one is. it persists.
October 25, 2008
Loved it!! Too funny!
½ October 11, 2008
Pretty simple and cute movie without getting too cheesy.
September 20, 2008
Happy Times!!!......... not so much
½ September 10, 2008
A story about searching for love and compassion in post-communist China. Love is the only thing that even people without anything in the world can give. A heartwarming story that should be told over and over again.
August 31, 2008
i found the dvd of this movie in big lots' sale section. it was only $4 or so, but it was the best dvd buy.
½ August 19, 2008
This movie was amazing. It had some light comedy, nothing raunchy or gross, but still funny. The story was wonderful, and well acted. It's one of those 'heartwarming' movies that you'll never forget.
August 14, 2008
I hadn't even heard of this movie until I saw it on the library shelf: "Hey, a Chinese movie! And directed by Zhang Yimou!" So I was sold. Funny and sweet until the end when it becomes about as Chinese as they come. My gosh...
June 22, 2008
Somewhat in line with "Goodbye, Lenin" and also some reminiscent of "La vita e bella". It's funny and touching, uncomfortable as the lies get bigger and bigger. We lie to protect each other, remember that.
June 3, 2008
Uncomfortable comedy and touching relationships. I wanted to punch the fat lady and give Zhao a big hug when it was all over, and Xiao Wu should have been honored with a parade, which goes to show how powerful the characters and settings in this film are when one can get so wrapped up in them so quickly. Another wonderful effort by Zhang Yimou.
May 29, 2008
Välillä on mukava katsella näitä "aitoja" Zhang Yimoun leffoja.
½ May 27, 2008
I adore this film. Terribly sweet. Incredibly funny. Excellent cast. By far Zhang Yimou's best film to date.
½ May 24, 2008
Starts out funny as fuck, but soon becomes extremely emotional. Great example of letting a relationship blossom throughout the movie, slowly adding pieces until it becomes something very special. Also great acting performances. It's just a tad over sentimental for me, but it more or less had me in the moment and I felt like crying at the end.
½ May 16, 2008
[font=Arial][b]HAPPY TIMES (2002)[/b][/font]
[font=Arial]"Happy Times" masquerades as a comedy, but cannot travel very far before turning dark and inadvertently shedding light onto the many societal woes facing the world's most populous communist regime. The first 10 minutes are entertainingly quirky and comedic, but the story quickly descends deeper and deeper into a tragic despair from which the characters and their audience never escape. Without exaggeration, the moral of this story is "things are horrible but they're only going to get worse, so suck it up." [/font]
[font=Arial]Putting the icing on the cake, the story is sprinkled with pro-China propaganda, courtesy of the People's Republic of China's Ministry of Culture, as discussed below.[/font]
[font=Arial]The story starts with our hero, Zhao, who, in an effort to court the affections of an obese, abusive woman, lies and says that he is the owner of a hotel called "Happy Times." The hero is likeable enough, and this dynamic of watching him bend over backwards in pursuit of this Godzilla woman, even going so far as to fabricate a story that even he must know will ultimately unravel, would be confusing to Westerners without knowing more. The insight here is that girls have been heavily disfavored among parents in this Communist regime, and since their government prohibits a couple from having more than one child, many parents will abort their baby girls (not wanting to miss their chance to have a boy), thereby creating a national woman shortage literally in the tens of millions. This is not discussed in the movie. [/font]
[font=Arial]Zhao does later goes on to create a "Happy Times" hotel, but it resembles a section of Los Angeles' Skid Row. "Happy Times" hotel rents by the hour to married couples. BY THE HOUR TO MARRIED COUPLES. The hotel rents to married couples because China's State Family Planning Commission and the Ministry of Health wouldn't have it any other way; I suppose that an alternative explaination would be that it merely reveals the country's problems of inadequate urban housing, but everything is perfect in China, so that can't be it.[/font]
[font=Arial]Godzilla woman has a blind step daughter who she abuses in every way named Wu Ying. Godzilla woman persuades Zhao to give Wu Ying a job at his hotel. Zhao hires Wu Ying as a full-time masseuse; it is not clear what Wu Ying's exact age is, but this job would probably be illegal in the United States because of child labor laws.[/font]
[font=Arial]So "Happy Times" hotel is at this point towed (that's right... towed), leaving Zhao without a hotel, so his friends create an elaborate rouse to trick Wu Ying into thinking that she is a masseuse at an expensive hotel by having her work in an empty warehouse and paying her with paper cut into the shape of currency. Remember, she is blind. I suppose that this could be regarded as comedic, except that we feel sorry for Wu Ying as she saves her fake money, massaging fake customers, to pay for a hypothetical operation to restore her sight. Wu Ying also expresses that she hopes that the money could be used to bring her father back from a remote province, though she doesn't know where he is or how to find him and she hasn't heard from him or seen him in years and, for all we know, has been dead or incarcerated as a political prisoner since he first "left".[/font]
[font=Arial]In one scene, Zhao, Wu Ying, and Zhao's friend are at a table discussing the hypothetical operation to restore Wu Ying's sight. Zhao says that once the money is saved, they will find the best doctor in all of Bejing to operate. Wu Ying says that if that doctor can't do it, they'll find the best doctor in China to operate. Zhao counters that if no one in China can do it, they'll even go to America if they have to. "No, no, no," the friend interjects, "the best doctors are right here in China." Zhao and Wu Ying agree. Nice propaganda. We'll get a look at a Chinese Intensive Care Unit by the end of the film.[/font]
[font=Arial]In one scene, Zhao cannot afford to buy ice cream. Ice cream in China is considered a luxury that the average incomed person will seldom or never enjoy. Even if the best doctors were in China, at least we have ice cream.[/font]
[font=Arial]This is the point in the film where everything completely falls apart for our hero. Godzilla woman marries another man and tells Zhao that he's stuck with Wu Ying. Zhao gets into a horrific traffic accident that leaves him in a coma, prognosis unclear, and lying disfigured in a tiny room while hooked up to a bunch of machines that look like they were purchased from the Soviet Union in World War II. My dog's veterinarian has better facilities and technology than this hospital does. [/font]
[font=Arial]We learn that, ironically, Wu Ying was already aware that the job was a farce. Just before the traffic accident, she wrote a letter to Zhao thanking him for her fake job because he went through so much trouble on her behalf. Of course, it was actually to win the affections of Godzilla woman, but whatever. Wu Ying leaves town before the accident, and Zhao never sees the letter.[/font]
[font=Arial]Wu Ying has no money, of course, no job, no family, no home, no prospects, no support system, and is completely blind and on the street in an urban jungle. Her father once told her that life brings terrible events, but you just have to keep going; so that's what she's going to do... just keep going. Sure, she's probably not going to eat that night; if she's lucky, she'll end up being exploited in a sweat shop instead of working as a prostitute or dead in a gutter. But heck, you just have to keep going. Frankly, the movie offers plenty of reasons why you wouldn't want to keep going, but you apparently just do it because you're told to. [/font]
[font=Arial]If you ignore the propaganda, the script is well drafted. The story line is mediocre to good. But this is not a comedy... it is a drama characterized by hopelessness and despair.[/font]
April 26, 2008
It's so cute and endearing!
April 10, 2008
Zhang Yimou is far better known for films like House of Flying Daggers and Curse of the Golden Flower (or Raise the Red Lantern, if you run in more artsy circles) than for films like this one, which was kind of a surprise to me. Despite the focal point of the cover--which may or may not be the theatrical poster--this film is not really about the relationship of the two people who appear on it, being lonely bachelor Zhao (Zhao Benshan) and his fiancee, the nameless "Stepmother" (Dong Lifan).

In truth, this film seems to be about Zhao and the "stepmother," but soon we meet the blind girl Wu Ying (Dong Jie), who is the blind stepdaughter that gives Dong Lifan's character her "title" of stepmother. She is neglected and just shy of abused (by which I mean only that she is not physically assaulted--she is treated much like Cinderella, which really constitutes abuse) by her stepmother, which Zhao does not realize in his desperation to marry. He has taken on his new girlfriend simply because she has agreed to marry him, complimenting her on her large size simply because he feels that anyone skinnier will reject him, based on his experience. Leng Qibin (also unnamed as a character) plays Wu's stepbrother, and is the image of the spoiled biological child, also taking up a large amount of space and first seen complaining that his video gaming system is currently on the fritz. Eventually Zhao begins to see the loneliness and despair in Wu, even though he never sees what her stepmother does, still trying consistently to appease her and guarantee his marriage. He lies endlessly to both of them about his job, claiming to be a hotel manager--instead he has taken on rentals of time in an abandoned bus in a park, named the "Happy Times Hut" with his friend, of a circle of retired former co-workers--and attempting to get a "job" for Wu.

Eventually the plot shifts firmly to Zhao's misguided attempts to make and keep Wu happy and feeling loved, using deception to do this. Creatively, this is not shown or seen as a bad or negative thing; their deception is so purely motivated and well-intended that even Wu takes no issue with it when she finds out. She understands the meaning behind their actions and takes no insult from it. And this is absolutely one of the most touching things in the world--to see that even through the deceit and the previously selfish interests (and some continued ones, too) these two characters find love--not romantic love, but perhaps all the stronger for it. They both bring some meaning to each other's lives, renewing their interest in other people. It manages to have this warm, caring element without sacrificing any of the cynical realism that inhabits and creates the world as we know it. Expertly crafted in the tension of these two contrasting extremes, it only further enhances the darkness for some--who find the rather ambiguous ending heartbreaking, and the light for others, like myself, who see a kind of hope in it.

A fantastic movie, but I've come to expect that from Zhang Yimou.
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