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Café. Waiting. Love

Bruce and Vivian Sung in Café. Waiting. Love.



Year: 2014  
Director: Chiang Chin-Lin
Producer: Giddens, Angie Chai
Writer: Giddens

Vivian Sung, Bruce, Vivian Chow Wai-Man, Megan Lai, Marcus Chang, Katie Chen, Lee Luo, Paulien Lan, Wong Yat-Fei, Lam Kwok-Bun

The Skinny: This airy postmodern romance should charm fans of super-popular Taiwanese author Giddens, whose You Are the Apple of My Eye was a beloved megahit. However, the too-cute romantic devices and soggy melodrama of Café. Waiting. Love may find discerning audiences wanting. Choose your side.
by Kozo:
Even more Giddens arrives at the multiplex with Café. Waiting. Love. Directed by Chiang Chin-Lin, and based on one of the popular Taiwanese author’s most beloved novels, Café possesses the same attention to romantic minutiae that made Giddens’ You Are The Apple of My Eye such an endearing hit. It also possesses his juvenile sense of humor plus some quirky magical weirdness that was not evident in Apple. The magical devices are more inexplicable than lyrical, however, and could be a dealbreaker for less forgiving audiences. Specifically, does the idea that a person can magically conjure up tofu and sausages from thin air – and that such a phenomenon qualifies as a harbinger of romantic destiny – seem strange to you? If you cannot get on board with that wizardry, then, well, you may not be the audience for Café. Waiting. Love.

However, there is an audience for coy and cute fiction, and those people should cotton to the film’s charms. Café. Waiting. Love stars newcomer Vivian Sung as Siying, a brassy college girl who possesses more character than probably anyone on the island of Taiwan. Siying is nearly hit by a bus and is helped to her feet by Zeyu (Marcus Chang), a calm young man whose peaceful demeanor walks the line between serene and creepy. Infatuated, Siying follows Zeyu to Café. Waiting. Love, a coffee bar whose owner (Vivian Chow) is mysteriously melancholy. Siying instantly gets a job at the café, where she works beneath butch barista Abusi (Megan Lai), whose drink-making skills are locally renowned. Firmly ensconced in this little sub-culture, Siying can now stalk Zeyu while slowly learning about the coffee bar’s various personalities and their pasts.

Siying also meets eternally cheerful student A-Tou (Bruce), who’s infamous for always wearing a bikini and roller skates in public, and for dragging a cabbage around town by a leash. Questionable hobbies aside, the two become friends, and an attraction begins to grow. For Siying, the feeling is more about the slow realization that A-Tou is a super-excellent dude, but for A-Tou the attraction has everything to do with his late grandfather’s prophecy about how one day A-Tou would meet his destined love – and he’d be able to identify her by her ability to produce sausages from thin air. This leads to multiple scenes of A-Tou pulling sausages from behind Siying’s head and proclaiming his love, while she demurs and nobody thinks to turn this trick into a solution for world hunger. Yeah, there’s some adorable quirkiness to this detail but Giddens and company overuse the device to the point where it becomes overbearing and even cringe-worthy.

Other aspects of the film are more agreeable. Despite being introduced with peculiar habits, A-Tou is a stand-up, likable guy and Siying is a romantic heroine with solid appeal. Both are basically idealized characters straight out of a shojo manga, but Bruce and Vivian Sung are fresh, interesting faces and their romance lacks pretension despite its pandering details. Some of the side characters are also fun; A-Tou and Siying are aided and abetted by former actor Brother Bao (Lee Lou), who’s had a longstanding row with his wife Jindao (Paulein Lan), and laments it by watching his old melodramatic gangster films and crying in self-deprecating bro fashion. Megan Lai is striking as Abusi, and gives the film far more presence than her meager screentime and dialogue allow. Vivian Chow is ethereal but lukewarm as the mysterious café owner, while other actors make lesser impressions. Overall, there’s an uneven quality to the performances that’s more indicative of loose direction than varied personalities

Café. Waiting. Love ultimately uses its fantastic elements to tell a familiar romantic story, and it only gets worse during expository flashback sequences that escalate the hokey melodrama to an unreasonable degree. On the plus side, the film is certainly well made, with its lovely Taiwan locations, clean spaces and accompanying glimpses at upscale coffee culture. Aside from its friendly emotions, Café. Waiting. Love offers something of a Taiwanese hipster-yuppie paradise – kind of like Seattle but with more Asian people and less rain or identity politics. The sum total is entertaining and light, and not a complete film by any stretch of the imagination. But at this point, airy postmodern romances like these belong in their own genre alongside Giddens’ other comedies and their mix of attractive stars, self-absorbed emotions and cute accoutrements. This genre has an audience and Café. Waiting. Love serves them earnestly. (Kozo, 8/2014)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Edko Films, Ltd.
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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image credit: Edko Films Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen