Liu Yifei is pretty much the definition of fairylike for me, and so I was so excited when she announced she’ll be playing a fox immortal in Once Upon a Time三生三世十里桃花. Unfortunately, even her and Yang Yang’s face could not savage the film’s undeveloped characters, zero chemistry, poor acting, and atrocious aesthetics.
The film opens as Bai Qian (Liu Yifei), a fox fairy that is 30,000-years-old, runs through the forest like fairies do and then enters a giant jellyfish carriage to attend a wedding. There we find out that the immortals have terrible taste in fashion, and Bai Qian finds a wandering child who speaks like Siri. Soon we learn that Bai Qian looks just like the child’s mother, and the child’s father is her betrothed (Yang Yang) . What a small world!
Based on the book of the same name, the film continues as the audience slowly meets her two “past lives” – her status as a cross-dressing youth that ended with her being banished to Earth, and her marriage to Yehua while banished as the human Susu. What follows is a hodge podge of scenes plucked from the novel that have little emotional continuity.
Yang Yang’s Yehua came off as a major creep instead of a playful lover. Liu Yifei fares better with her facial expressions, but her line readings are void of emotion and are often slurred together. Also, I know their son is a child, but given what the Little Actors Troupe are capable of, there’s no excuse for the casting choice.
The visuals are probably the most expensive part of the film. Props to the actually cute CGI sidekick for once, and I guess the ocean and forest backdrops are stunning if only as concept art. Other than that, the heavy color saturation made everything look tacky. A few of the Laurence Xu-designed dresses for Bai Qian that look like Machesa haute couture are are stunning, but from from Luo Jin’s rainbow rooster look to Liu Yifei’s Candyland wedding dress, most of the outfits are atrocious.
Overall, the film is a good idea on paper executed very poorly.