In the Taiwanese director Leste Chen's (THE HEIRLOOM, ETERNAL SUMMER) latest movie, LOVE ON CREDIT opens interestingly with Lin Chi-Ling's thoughtful voiceover: "How much effort are we willing to spend and what price are we willing to pay for love, and for happiness of life? Up till now, I have been thinking which one of us has made the right choice? Do we want a prince or a big house? What about happiness versus pretty clothes? How can we be so sure that we have picked the right answer to lead a happy life? Where should I start?" No doubt it's a familiar question that concerns on money vs. love matter, but this otherwise predictable romantic comedy is surprisingly delightful enough to warrant this a must-see for genre fans.
Set in the modern-day Beijing, the movie centers on twin sisters Li Xiaohong and Mo Xiaoqing (Lin Chi-Ling in a dual roles) who both lived apart after their parents broke up. Xiaohong stayed with her mother and always fancies a lavish life and a wealthy husband, while Xiaoqing is a quieter one who believed in love more than anything else, stayed with her father instead.
After growing up as adults, both of them still unmarried even though they are already in relationship. Xiaohong, who is now a publicist, has a wealthy married lover, Shi Kang (Ma Weijiang) who refuses to file a divorce. Meanwhile, Xiaoqing is currently jobless and lives with her boyfriend of 10 years, Jiang Cheng (Liao Fan). But her relationship with him immediately turns sour when she discovers Jiang has used up all her hard-earned saving to borrow to his unreliable friend who claims his mother is very ill. That money is supposedly meant to buy her own house one day. Xiaoqing breaks up with him but continues sharing the same apartment.
One evening, Xiaohong is finally had enough with Shi Kang and breaks up with him. So she drinks a lot to ease her sorrow and later gets to know a wealthy young man named Zhang Quan (Chen Kun) in a hotel bar. They flirt each other, and ends up in Zhang's room.
The two sisters stumble upon each other again when Xiaoqing is coincidentally applies for a job at Xiaohong's PR company. Xiaohong urges Xiaoqing to dump off her meek lifestyle and starts afresh by going all out with a so-called "credit card life" -- which means finding a wealthy boyfriend and splurge whatever luxurious items by using his credit card. And so XIaohong ensures Xiaoqing to get a complete makeover and invites her to a trendy party. There, Xiaoqing meets a shy executive Shen Tao (Tony Yang), son of a wealthy Asian businesswoman (Chang Hsiao-Yen). Xiaoqing decides to start dating Shen Tao without Jiang Cheng's knowledge. As for Xiaohong, Zhang Quan starts pressing her with a marriage proposal but Xiaohong makes it clear she only loves him because of his credit card.
The plot is actually nothing new, but the movie works well because of its great cast. When popular Taiwanese supermodel Lin Chi-Ling makes her feature debut in 2008's RED CLIFF, and continues with the much-maligned 2009's THE TREASURE HUNTER, she is heavily criticized for her flower-vase performance. But here, she is a startling revelation. I wouldn't have thought that she can pull off such convincing act in a dual roles with different personalities. This is nevertheless her most improved performance to date. As for her co-stars, both Chen Kun and Tony Yang are equally credible in their respective roles.
Another worthy mention is Leste Chen's confident direction who balances romance, drama and comedy in a smooth-sailing manner. The comedy part is especially quirky and entertaining to watch for. The most memorable moment of all involves Shen Tao's awkward first date with Xiaoqing is a weird one as he keeps changing tables in a restaurant.