A Film a Week - Didi's Dream / "Chi chi" de ai

Reading the IMDb description of Kevin Tsai’s directorial debut, a person can jump into conclusion that Didi’s Dream is yet another riff on the romcom genre riddled with tropes of a woman of a certain age, her not so perfect life and relationship, family ties and the sudden nature of success and illness. Honestly, it a bit clichéd and all the ingredients are well known, used and reused, but there is something fresh about this particular story and the freshness of it is obvious right from the start.

The start is, however, a titular dream in which the titular character is Xu Chunmei, the owner of an intergalactic noodles diner in a space-opera version of the future where even soups have ability to adjust themselves automatically according to the taste of the costumer. Pretty cool, right? But in her Earthly life, Shangguan Didi (Dee Hsu) ia a wannabe actress who keeps auditioning (those scenes are as hilarious as they feel constructed and over the top) only to get the extra roles and the non-speaking parts in moronic commercials. Her boyfriend Kouzi (Jin Shijia) is as supportive and as modest as they come, but Didi wants more from life. Her driving force seems to be a fierce rivalry with her sister Lilgling (Chiling Lin of Red Cliff moveis fame), a successful star-actress and nationally beloved celebrity.

The things change in one lucky and one unlucky break that happen simultaneously. As she gets her terminal brain tumor diagnosis with only one more year to live, she also gets a series of silly parts for television that slowly but steadily propel her to fame, first as a viral video comedy sensation and then as a bona fide celebrity that gets to play in a period piece drama (or it may be a wuxia thing, we are never sure) alongside her sister. Will Didi have enough time to prove herself to herself and to the others?

It is a familiar story told in an interesting and inspired way. Tsai’s sense for staging and directing particular scenes (especially those dreamy ones) is strong, albeit his overwhelming use of loud score, while the script he penned together with Mingyi Liao feels inspired due to a number of well-placed comedic moments. Originally a screenwriter with a couple of credits to his name in the 90’s, Tsai made his name recently as a TV host on the show called Kangxi lai le and a judge on another one, U Can You BB. That shows in his knowledge of the mechanics of popular, even a bit trashy television and he, apparently, draws a lot of references from there and even does the cameo-casting from the pool of his regular guests. Some of that, however, gets lost in translation for the viewers (such as myself) who are not the avid watchers of Taiwanese and Chinese television.

Even his principal actress Dee Hsu comes from that milieu and Didi is her big screen debut. For her work here, she could be considered a major discovery, since her comedic timing is perfect and her general spunkyness serves the role quite well. She definitely lifts Didi’s Dream a couple of levels above the standard-issue, stereotypical romantic comedy, while maintaining it both romantic and humorous notwithstanding the film’s occasional milking for emotions via cheap sentimentality.

No comments:

Post a Comment