“Anything’s possible, that’s the beauty of life.” – a worn out adage, used innumerably on novels and films, and even those annoying optimists that wiggle around societal circles. Shanghai Kiss lives with this adage, a conventional proverb presented in the most entertaining and interesting way.
It’s a journey of a man of Chinese decent figuring out who he is and what he wants in life, where in the land of milk and honey (note: it’s a global perspective, can’t ignore the current economic crunch US folks are experiencing) he can’t seem to find his niche, his call to success.
Liam played by Ken Leung, throughout the film endures looking for love in all the wrong places, having a secret relationship with a sixteen year old high school student played by Hayden Penettiere, of Heroes fame, he met in a bus in LA and an intricate collection of women he picks up in bars.
Every woman might think he’s a living breathing A-Hole with no inclination to ethics and morals but what makes this character beautiful to watch is his guilt stricken moments when he cheats on his teenage lover. These moments create humanity in Ken’s portrayal of Liam, his epic struggle on two clashing principles, fighting desire for flesh and desire for a devoted and sincere relationship.
His inner conflicts are portrayed so vividly that it sucks anyone in to his conundrum. The issue Liam goes through is realistic on anyone’s account.
The film tackles his reluctance to pursue a relationship with a sixteen year-old in fear of a crime that’s essentially questionable since it still assumes the mental incapacity of minors to be in a consensual relationship with someone older throws him in a situation where he wants to but he just can’t.
And yet the positivism that Hayden Panettiere exudes for her role is exceptional, that seeing her with Liam whose twelve years older seems so right. Her optimism and dedication for the relationship is an outright stark contrast to what Liam offers. I’m just freaked out on the prospect of dirty old men fantasizing of having a secret young lover as hot and enchanting as Hayden.
A good chunk of viewers, especially male viewers, would strongly relate to Liam. And isn’t this one of holy grails of filmmaking? -- The creation of a determinate connection between the audience and the film? Shanghai Kiss executes this oh so well.
The film is full of symbolisms – Liam’s Mini Cooper and mirror reflections. Well this could all be coincidence and could be deciphered by the viewer but the director never really meant to portray that message. But if observed more, the dirt, bumps, and dents on Liam’s Cooper symbolic explanation of who he is and what he’s been through.
Witty and self-deprecating humour fills that vacuum of optimism and within a depressed and lost character. The relationships that are built around Liam is amazingly thought out and well written.
Shanghai Kiss reminds me of Lost Translation when Liam’s in Shanghai in search for his roots and identity, the scenic urban shots and language barrier interactions makes him so helpless and lost.
Each character has their personal struggles, and yet hope still exists within each of them, pushing them on for what they aspire – and that’s what makes Shanghai Kiss so human. It’s relentless exhibition of human imperfections and how each deals with them.
When the film stops rolling or should I say stop spinning? Shanghai Kiss successfully reaches out to the audience clearly stating that the possibilities are out there, and that’s the beauty of life – the conclusion fulfils that.
It serves as an inspiration to all on how one can be so different and realize that difference is from within. We are all different, therefore are difference is our commonality, that difference becomes a common ground for which people of different race and background can connect and break social barriers.