Editor, U.S.; Los Angeles, California (@filmbenjamin)
[Thanks goes to Alexander Thebez for this review.]

Yimeng Jin's SOPHIE'S REVENGE is a gleeful, well-polished Chinese rom-com with a lot of slapstick humor and snippy banter. The film follows the story of Sophie (Zhang Ziyi), a cartoonist who is trying to win back her ex-boyfriend from a famous movie star, Joanna (Bingbing Fan).  Racing against time, Sophie, with the help of the handsome, mysterious Gordon (Peter Ho) employs questionable "scientific methods" to reclaim hunky Jeff (So Ji-sub).

First of all, if you are looking for a heart-wrenching, profound drama, SOPHIE'S REVENGE will definitely sink your boat. The official NYAFF 2010 website describes a little conspiracy between American movie distributors and the CIA from 20 years ago. It was decided that the only movies from China allowed in the States are the ones that depict China as a really crappy place to live. Aside from being Zhang Ziyi's debut as a producer, SOPHIE'S REVENGE is also a movie that proves that China can compete with the glitz of Hollywood.
In comparison to SAWAKO DECIDES, another chick-flick playing in the festival, SOPHIE'S sits on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Unfortunately for me, the story and character conventions in SOPHIE'S REVENGE reminds me too much of Chinese dramas at a first glance. The China that we see in SOPHIE'S REVENGE looks like something out of SEX AND THE CITY. The women are fashionable, and the men are hunky. Everyone is beautiful, and everything is glossy. The plot is also pretty predictable. Just like most Hollywood rom-coms, the film is not realistic. The majority of the characters behave like caricatures, while any trace of human sincerity (courtesy of the men in the film) is obliterated by flashy, cutesy animated sequences.

There is a weird balance issue in the film that makes it less accessible for me. I really don't mind predictable, flashy romantic comedies as long as the characters are at least sympathetic, but this is not necessarily the case. The men in the film function as emotional anchors, and on the other hand, the women dish out all the comedy. While SOPHIE'S REVENGE comes across as a film for women, I am baffled that most of the female characters are shallow and vapid. Similarly to SEX AND THE CITY, the women in this film preach about the strength of the female sex and how the female will never be complete until they find their male counterpart. I think that is one thing about the film that turns me off the most.

Sophie's character is actually slightly disturbed. She is obsessed with her ex-boyfriend, so much that she doesn't notice Gordon's obviously more sincere feelings for her. Neither Sophie nor the other women in the film, including the strongest one, Joanna, know how to define themselves as complete individuals without a certain significant other. Strangely enough, at the end of the film I feel more for Bingbing Fan's Joanna a heck of alot more than I do for any of the protagonists in the film. She does not really deserve all the mischief that Sophie puts her through! Besides, Fan seems to display a wider range of emotions and a more sympathetic character arc than Zhang Ziyi's Sophie.

SOPHIE'S REVENGE is a sweet, overly decorated cupcake. At first glance, it looks promising and enticing. As a consumer, you will savor its sweet sugar goodness and the rush that follows it. But an hour later, you'll realize that it does not exactly provide you with any essential nutrient necessary for the growth of your soul. Then again, I don't really have much of a sweet tooth.

SOPHIE'S REVENGE will have its New York Premiere as part of the 2010 New York Asian Film Festival. It screens at the Lincoln Center/Walter Reade Theater on June 29th (4:00 PM) and July 3rd (9:45 PM).
Click here to buy tickets!

Sophie's Revenge

  • Eva Jin
  • Eva Jin
  • Ziyi Zhang
  • Bingbing Fan
  • Peter Ho
  • Ji-seob So
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Eva JinZiyi ZhangBingbing FanPeter HoJi-seob SoComedyRomance

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