We can only wonder what the late Nora Ephron would’ve thought of the Chinese rom-com “Finding Mr. Right,” which was a big hit in China last spring. It’s the second film (after 2010’s “Ocean Heaven”) from writer-director Xue Xialou, who pays homage to Ephron’s “Sleepless in Seattle” with a bright, sentimental bauble that’s blandly generic and predictable from the get-go.
Xue isn’t alone in honoring Ephron’s 1993 hit. Her lead character, Jiajia (Tang Wei), is hooked on the movie’s unabashed romanticism, despite being the pregnant, spoiled mistress of a shady Beijing fat cat who’s under criminal investigation. To avoid scandal, she’s sent to Seattle to have her child in a clandestine (i.e. illegal) maternity center, where Frank (Wu Xiubo) works as the driver who picks up Jiajia at Sea-Tac airport.
Jiajia recognizes Frank as the Beijing physician who’d once treated her father; he’d sacrificed his career to care for his daughter Julie (Song Meihui) when his wife took a lucrative, Seattle-based job in pharmaceuticals. For reasons that aren’t even remotely convincing, Frank hasn’t told Julie that he and her mother have divorced.
This setup is never less than obvious, prompting Jiajia to stop being a spoiled brat as she and Frank grow closer. Later separated by time and distance, they reunite in New York. You can probably guess where.
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While Seattle gets the rainy-glossy, picture-postcard treatment (scenes were filmed here and in Vancouver in late 2012), “Finding Mr. Right” goes through the motions you’d expect from a film so boringly titled. To be fair, though, it does touch upon the notion of Seattle (and the U.S.) as a sensible escape from the garish materialism of Beijing and Hong Kong.
While fueling a current boom in frothy Chinese rom-coms, it’s a tolerably cute showcase for Tang Wei, once banned from Chinese films for appearing in Ang Lee’s controversial “Lust, Caution” and now restored to stardom.