Life, Translated would make a strong prime-time, mid-season addition to mainland China’s WB affiliate, slotted comfortably between Buffy Takes Beijing and Guangzhou Girls. Kiefer Liu’s eccentric bit of teen sigh candy is veined with enough chewy oddities to give it texture, but its sappy center isn’t sustainable over 100 minutes. Screenwriter (and star) Jennifer Li’s semi-autobiographical book Sheep With Wings inspired the film, which performed remarkably well in China. Possibly related: Li happens to be the daughter of Li Yizhi, vice party secretary of south China’s Shenzhen city, which “encouraged” its high school students to watch the film. But back to Life, in a nutshell: Punky, pigtailed Chinese chick attends English boarding school, gets shit from snotty Brit slags, wins hearts of cutesy pianist-cum-scrum half (pop star Edison Chen of Infernal Affairs) and his Mandarin-fluent American friend. Love triangulates. Punky chick reads Hamlet’s soliloquy (yes, that one) in Mandarin with more emotion than anyone named Olivier or maybe Patrick Stewart (not kidding—it’s kinda great). Love unconsummated, chick splits. All right, China’s UPN perhaps?
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 27, 2005