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The Last Women Standing
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Eddie Peng and Shu Qi in The Last Women Standing.

Chinese: 剩者為王  
Year: 2015
Director: Luo Luo
Producer: Hao Wei
Writer: Luo Luo (based on her original novel)

Shu Qi, Eddie Peng Yu-Yan, Lynn Xiong, Hao Lei, Pang Hong, King Shih-Chieh, Xing Jiadong, Zhang Xilin, Zhang Wen, Du Jiayi, Wang Sisi, Jing Hao

The Skinny:

Romantic comedy-drama about a “leftover woman” that’s not very romantic but features decent character work and a fine central performance from Shu Qi. Not totally commercial and not really artistic, which kind of leaves it in limbo. Amidst its flaws, The Last Women Standing still has its moments.

by Kozo:
Though its marketing screams modern commercial romance, The Last Women Standing isn’t exactly one. Directed by Luo Luo, who also wrote the novel on which the film was based, Last Women Standing is a fairly straightforward examination of a “leftover woman”, i.e., a woman who’s hit thirty but isn't due to be married anytime soon and is thus grouped into an undesirable demographic. This subject matter exists because of China’s ageist/sexist values, but don’t expect the film to comment on those things – at least, not in a way that addresses society or a larger group of women besides the main character. Said main character is Sheng Ruxi (Shu Qi), who lives in Shanghai and is constantly harangued by her pushy mother (Pang Hong) to get married. Ruxi is annoyed at the nagging, but she simultaneously meets a new guy, her dreamy junior colleague Ma Sai (Eddie Peng). Will Ruxi find love and get married or disappoint her mother and stay single? Romcom clichés ahoy!

The clichés do happen – because something has to in a movie – but the suspense and buildup are lacking. Luo Luo's script serves up numerous disconnected events that push Ruxi and Ma Sai together, like a business trip with a shared room, or a personal crisis that requires Ma Sai to keep Ruxi company. There's also a subplot involving Ruxi's friend Zhang Yu (Lynn Xiong), who's dealing with an ex-boyfriend. However, despite clearly relating to the film's title, Zhang Yu’s story feels tacked on because it's simply dropped into the film rather than seeded early on. Many moments in the film suffer from this disconnected storytelling; the overall narrative lacks a consistent flow and some important plotlines aren't even resolved by the time the credits roll. In lieu of a strong story, the film offers Ruxi's slow growth explicated by numerous speeches and monologues. As romances go, Last Women Standing isn't particularly exciting or even romantic.

Shu Qi is the real draw here, as she exudes authenticity even when the material sometimes doesn’t. Ruxi is a no-nonsense businesswoman who carries herself too pridefully in her personal relationships, and Shu ably conveys how her behavior conflicts with her emotions. Shu Qi's performance also helps make up for Eddie Peng's inscrutable character. Ma Sai's lack of development is a big reason that Last Women Standing feels unsatisfying – he never becomes a full-fledged character and pretty much functions as a superficial entity with which Ruxi comes to understand herself. That said, Peng is easy to like, and it's refreshing that the film is told almost entirely from Ruxi's perspective. Last Women Standing strives to give a full portrait of Ruxi's situation, and there's worthwhile material to be found in the effort. Again, it really helps that Shu Qi is the lead, as a lesser actress might not have the chops to carry such a languidly-told film.

Production values are good but not too good; the locations and cinematography make Shanghai into an attractive, modern but not too idealized place. Some of the supporting actors shine; Hao Lei (as Ruxi's boss) and King Shi-Chieh (as Ruxi's father) add weight and credibility to their limited roles. Both are given long speeches to round out their parts, yet manage to lift their scenes beyond narrative cliché. Otherwise, the film seldom capitalizes on its opportunities to be more traditionally crowd-pleasing, e.g., it doesn't make Ruxi and Ma Sai's romance overtly attractive or fun, and refuses to manufacture a conflict that creates a "ticking clock" – at least, not one besides Ruxi's biological one. Overall, the film seems aimed at those who empathize with Ruxi's issues, though Shu Qi's performance may make it worthwhile to even those who don't. The Last Women Standing exists in that difficult space between too thoughtful and too commercial, making it hard for all audiences to fully enjoy. That doesn’t mean it cannot be appreciated. (Kozo, 10/2016)


• Reportedly, the original novel of The Last Women Standing is actually very different from the film adaptation. Besides Ruxi (Shu Qi), the novel also explores the lives of her friend Zhang Yu (Lynn Xiong) and her boss Mrs. Wang (Hao Lei), both of whom also qualify as "leftover women". Ma Sai (Eddie Peng) remains secondary and largely unexplored in the novel.


DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
CN Entertainment Ltd.
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc

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