The popularity of Xu Jinglei's latest movie "Dear Enemy" is quite a myth.
I would never have watched the movie "Dear Enemy" if it hadn't surprised me by making the top 3 in the nationwide box-office ranking. A film featuring a business scuffle like this could easily turn into a mere showcase of luxuries, while the title suggests it may well be just another chick flick, neither of which appeals to my interest. After 95 minutes in the cinema, my prediction was proven correct, except that the movie was so much worse than I had anticipated. A friend who watched the film with me said "Dear Enemy" was the first and only movie in 2011 that managed to keep her totally disengaged from beginning to end.
Yet, we did enjoy plenty of laughter while watching it, not because we were amused but because we found the same expression of bewilderment in each other's face. The first thing to note is the language. The typical practice by foreign-funded film production companies of inserting bits and pieces of English syllables into Chinese sentences has been a running joke for quite some time, but "Dear Enemy" carries on that tradition. The two languages are pieced together in such an awkward manner that they could never have come out of any sane person's mouth. This, combined with multiple Chinese dialects, creates a weird phonetic environment that constitutes the movie's first noticeable laughing stock.
The bilingual dialogue is one of the attempts to capture the lives of the so-called "high-end" elites in the investment banking business. Now as if that is not enough, the actors are sent flying around the world doing things that barely contribute to the main plot. Everywhere they go, the surroundings are "polluted" with extravagance. I have no issues with extravagance per se as long as it helps the story, but unfortunately, the storyline is weak too. As a result, all the efforts to portray the high-end lifestyle end up suggesting sheer vanity.
The story is weak because the director fails to balance two stories at the same time: a love story and a business scramble. At the beginning, the movie dazzles viewers with a shower of the characters' profiles, but succeeds in creating an intense atmosphere. Later on as the history between the lead actor and actress unfolds and both of them fly around the world, the momentum is lost, and the movie is reduced to a travelogue. By the end of the film, you won't be able to tell when you lost track of the story or remember any specific supporting roles.
Moreover, the movie could have done better in terms of editing. The most memorable scene is when the lead actress takes a stroll in the street. What we see is her flipping her hair in almost every short take, imagine the look of THAT… Plus, better editing might also have helped balance the story.
In summary, "Dear Enemy" is a poor movie in almost every sense, a rating of four out of 10 does it enough justice. The only explanation for its popularity is perhaps that moviegoers have had too much intense viewing of late with "The Flowers of War" and "Flying Swords of Dragon Gate", so that a modern, light-hearted film holds some appeal for them for a change, never mind how cheesy it is.