Starring: Liao Weiwei, Yao Lu, Ge Tian
Director: Li Kelong
Running Time: 102 mins
Bad Daughter is a Chinese film about a badly-behaved young woman who is admitted to a ‘School for Goddesses’ to whip her into shape. However, the entire school is actually a production for a reality TV show, with her as the main character.
On the face of things, this film looks like little more than a cheesy, plastic Chinese rip-off of The Truman Show. Which is why it really surprised me. Although I can’t say that Bad Daughter is an absolute masterpiece, it’s a really entertaining comedy with good humour, strong performances and a far more engaging screenplay than you would ever expect throughout, making for a really fun watch from beginning to end.
Now, there are some things about this film that may turn you off watching it early on. For example, the production quality doesn’t seem all that exceptional early on, with some fairly dodgy blue screen, worsened by the odd blatantly poor supporting performance. However, just know that this is a film made for iQiyi (the Chinese Netflix), so it’s not going to have the same professional production quality as Hollywood always does.
If you stick with it for the first ten minutes, when everything seems really plastic and cheesy, you’ll be rewarded with a film that evolves into something that’s not only a properly entertaining watch, but also one that takes a very famous premise and makes it work well once again, all the while retaining a strongly independent identity from The Truman Show.
What I liked most about Bad Daughter was its sense of humour and fun. While The Truman Show uses its premise to deal with some very deep and dramatic themes along with its comedy, you can sit back and enjoy Bad Daughter in a much lighter manner, thanks to its emphasis on bright, vibrant colours and sets along with simpler and sillier comedy.
But it’s not just stupid slapstick all the way through, but instead comedy that comes about as a result of engaging character conflicts, something that really proves this film has more depth and brains than seems the case from the outside.
What’s more is that the film features some pretty good performances that make that comedy work even better. In the lead role, Liao Weiwei is a great laugh, pulling off the tough girl persona really well, all the while making her character’s admittedly predictable and cheesy Cinderella-style development impressively convincing and engaging.
When it comes to the plot, I also have to say that this film throws up a good few surprises. Overall, its structure is fairly similar to The Truman Show, and although its attempts to replicate its deeper thematic elements aren’t anywhere near as successful, it makes that central story work really rather well as a simple comedy plot.
There’s the general strangeness of the situation surrounding a woman being monitored for a TV show without her knowledge, but there’s also the fun of some really bizarre hijinks that occur throughout, as the film becomes stranger and stranger in its humour right up to its incredibly weird ending. It’s all a great laugh, and it fits the whole fluffy atmosphere of the film really well.
Overall, I was really surprised by this film. On the face of things, it seems like little more than a cheesy take on The Truman Show, but in reality it’s a very fun, easy-going comedy from beginning to end, and with its bizarre sense of humour and enjoyable story, you’ll surely have a great time, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.5.