When Qiao Qiao (played by Bai Baihe) wants to break up because Li Xing (Eddie Peng) cannot afford to pay for the wedding and lifestyle of her dreams, a frustrated Li Xing eventually acquiesces. They draw up a contract stating that if both are still single after five years, then they will reunite and get married. Fast-forward five years and Qiao Qiao still loves Li Xing, but Li Xing tells her that he’s getting married. Qiao Qiao is jealous and tries to win him over before it’s too late. So far, it plays out like a fairly standard romantic comedy. But hints begin to appear that indicate Qiao Qiao’s reason for breaking up with Li Xing runs far deeper than monetary insecurity.
A Wedding Invitation is 2013 Chinese film directed by Oh Ki Hwan and adapted from the Oh-directed Last Present. It also features a Korean editor and composer, a Chinese cast and setting, and Chinese, Korean, and Hong Kong producers. This film is but one example of the growing popularity of co-Asian productions, which manage to invigorate genre conventions with a unique cultural mash-up. A Wedding Invitation’s plot evokes several recurring contrivances of the romance genre- the contract relationship, the misunderstanding caused by lack of communication, and the guilt and self-sacrifice for a lover. However, its unique Chinese cultural twist to a conventional Korean story help it stand out.
A Wedding Invitation is a very aesthetically attractive film. It is shot in the high-rises of Beijing and Shanghai and the cinematography is bathed in bright, saturated colors. Gleaming light reflects off the modern, cleverly designed buildings. The characters’ costuming is colorful and stylish and their apartments are modern and chic, showcasing their enviously fashionable lives. Particular attention is paid to food, as Li Xing is a chef and Qiao Qiao enjoys eating and critiquing his meals. His dishes are both generously displayed and explained onscreen. The film could almost serve as a channel to promote tourism to China.
Bai Baihe and Eddie Peng also elevate the film and convincingly sell their characters. Qiao Qiao’s actions could be seen as frustrating and unrealistic, but Bai gives the character such heart that you can’t help but root for her anyway. Her pain and turmoil is palpable with just the right amount of subtlety. Peng sometimes tends towards overselling his emotions during big scenes, but effectively pulls heartstrings during quieter moments. His love for Qiao Qiao really shines through in the gentle look in his expressive eyes. Overall, they had great chemistry together, which is crucial in making a successful romantic movie.
Probably the biggest drawback of A Wedding Invitation is the trite coverage of the major themes- death and grief. This film does nothing to explore a new facet of these themes, which dominate nearly every romantic drama. Li Xing realizes what really happened five years ago, leading to a trail of guilt, regret, and disbelief that ends in accepting the truth. He fights through his tears and does his best for Qiao Qiao, both in front of her and behind the scenes. He secretly cooks food for her while she’s staying at the hospital to provide her a simple comfort and later gives her a heart-rending proposal.
The only uniqueness of the story is the mash-up of two disparate tones and genres, the romantic drama and the romantic comedy. The jarring shift in tone made for a confusing viewing experience when the laughter quickly disappeared, never to return. But the gradual reveal of tragedy hidden beneath the feel-good comedy did lend another distinctive variation to the film. So while A Wedding Invitation can be seen as a spectacle of genre clichés, it can also be a spectacle of positive factors- a visual spectacle, a spectacle of heart-tugging acting, and a spectacle of larger-than-life emotional eccentricities that nevertheless have connections in reality.