Happy Times

  • Film
  • Drama
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Another blow to Zhang's international reputation, this sentimental comedy drifts from low satire into high pathos without catching any recognisable aspects of present-day Beijing life. TV comic Zhao plays an unemployed chancer who tries to win the heart of a fat divorcee. By the time he discovers she has an equally fat fiancé, he has haplessly accepted responsibility for her blind stepdaughter Wu Ying (newcomer Dong Jie). His attempt to make money by converting an abandoned bus into a 'love hotel' founders on his prudishness (he insists on sitting with the customers) and ends when the authorities lift the bus to the scrapyard. Then, for no evident reason, he sets about creating a fake working environment for Wu Ying, mocking up a bath-house massage room is a disused factory and asking his friends to pose as customers; she twigs the deception, but gamely plays along - until the factory is demolished. Hou Yong's bright, gently stylised images are a plus, but the material remains hopelessly inconsequential and unresonant.

Release details

Duration: 97 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Zhang Yimou
Screenwriter: Guizi
Cast: Dong Lifan
Niu Ben
Li Xuejian
Zhao Benshan
Fu Biao
Dong Jie

Average User Rating

3.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

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Contrary to what the Time Out reviewer has said, "Happy Times" is probably Zhang's best film since "Shanghai Triads". It doesn't try too hard, or milk emotions excessively (read: music on cue), and has excellent performances from Zhao and Dong Jie. And it's really funny. True, it's not a masterpiece like his first three movies, but still it's a small, engaging bittersweet dramedy.