Sophie's Revenge (2009)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2013-11-01
Sophie is an intelligent, talented and attractive young woman establishing herself as a comic book author. She has a rewarding career and loyal friends. Her mother, who lives in a distant city, doesn’t interfere with her but will drop everything to rush to her side when needed. According to the iron laws of romantic comedy Sophie is missing the most important and perhaps the only really essential piece to complete her life; she needs to be married. Unfortunately her fiancé has fallen in love with a seductive movie star and has called off the wedding, scheduled for two months hence. “Sophie’s Revenge” tells the story of her lame-brained and doomed from the start attempts to win him back.

Sophie is played by Zhang Ziyi, deglamorized by the hair, make-up and wardrobe departments but still unmistakably ZZ; there is no hiding those cheekbones. Joanne, who has stolen the heart of her fiancé, is played by Fan Bingbing. Joanne is glamorous, imperious and a lot smarter (or at least more calculating) underneath her brittle exterior than Sophie thinks. Dr. Jeff is the object of everyone’s affection but is an emotional cripple and mental cipher, less decisive than Hamlet and less perceptive than Malvolio. Gordon is clumsy and doesn’t seem very smart. He is a photographer who stopped exhibiting his work after only one poorly received show. Both Yang Mi (Lily) and Ruby Lin Xin-Ru (Lucy) seem to be having a great time as Sophie’s close friends who alternately comfort her when one of her schemes fails and encourage her to even more outlandish behavior for the next time.

The visual environment and use of cinematic space—art direction, costumes, lighting, everything that goes into creating the mise-en-scene—have a comic book look and feel. Each act is introduced by a brief animated scene continuing the references to Sophie as an artist. The animation also gives us a quick glimpse into her thoughts and fears, a necessary shorthand since Sophie’s emotional life is only hinted at otherwise.

“Sophie’s Revenge”, released in 2009, interrupted a string of Zhang Ziyi movies in which she played a cold-eyed killer, a heroine from another time and place or an ice queen who orders the death of anyone who even slightly impedes her. It is impossible to tell if she can be a real comedy actress as opposed to a movie star playing against type but this collaboration with Eva Jin Yi-Meng shows real possibilities, largely in comic timing and reaction. She has a few funny scenes. In one Joanne flashes Sophie in the locker room of a gym; we witness it facing Zhang Ziyi and behind Fan Bingbing, who is completely covered in a towel from the audience view. In another she gets sloppy drunk at a fancy dress party—she and her friends drink a lot—and is convincing and cute while staggering around in a sheep costume.

The screenplay is atrocious, lumbering toward its preordained ending. It might be an artistic decision for the characters to be rom-com stereotypes with no compelling characteristics but it is more likely due to lack of interest or talent on the part of Eva Jin. She seems to be a competent director but based on this movie she should stick to interpreting the work of other writers.

Recommended only for fans of Zhang Ziyi since she is onscreen for almost every minute of the film.
Reviewer Score: 5