Happy Times

Rated 4.0 This sort of Chinese Damon Runyon story sometimes has the feel of a silent-era melodrama as vivid but deadpan characters are alternately bathed in sympathy, humor and sorrow. Zhao (played by Zhao Benshan), the main character here, is an unemployed chronic liar who bends and exaggerates the truth with the same natural reflex and fluidity of his next breath. He opens a Pandora’s box of headaches when he meets a rather beefy divorcée (Dong Lihua), tells her that he is a hotel owner and agrees to finance a wedding ceremony well beyond his means. Zhao turns to his retired cronies for the financial support needed to placate the pushy gold digger and employ her bullied, blind 18-year-old stepdaughter Wu Ying (Dong Jie) as a masseuse. This bittersweet, refreshingly simple story about the domino effect of deception, loyalty of friends and power of dreams reminds us to feel rather than just think way too much. It is life affirming and heart breaking, sweet without the decay factor, funny and sad. Directed by Zhang Yimou (Shanghai Triad, Raise the Red Lantern).