Naming this rom-com This is Not What I Expected is a misnomer because everything that will happen is expected. This is 1 litre screwball comedy, 2 tablespoons of “opposites attract” and 3 slices of food porn. But make no mistake, even though the odd couple seemed mismatched, they will come together like the desert miss the rain.
Lu Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) is the CEO of the VN Group and he is scoping Rosebud Hotel in Shanghai for an acquisition. A food connoisseur, he is not impressed by the dishes the kitchen sends up. Sous-chef Gu Shengnan (Zhou Dongyu) is then tasked to try her hand to impress the eccentric man, but unbeknownst to both of them, they actually had a run-in earlier. Lu is impressed with the dish and proceeds to stay and try more delicacies made by her.
This rom-com is formulaic to a T but any movie buff will tell you that is not important. It is a foregone conclusion that the mismatched coupling will be a love-match made in heaven. The secret ingredient is to create hilarious situations to make them loathsome towards each other and yet give them redeeming qualities.
Lu Jin believes that the world is divided into three categories – the pork eaters, the pork butchers and the pigs. He is eccentric, rude and condescending – the world is beneath him in every scene, but OMG Takeshi Kaneshiro is so good looking and so dashing in his impeccably tailored suits. This coming from a guy, you know he is handsome from every angle and my knees got a little weak just swooning at him. Kaneshiro brings just the right amount of detestable contempt but you will excuse him because he is about to be schooled in the art of food tasting and love.
Gu Shengnan is his equal – opinionated and sure-footed. Excluding Lu’s father, I think she is the only character in the whole movie (and probably all the cinema patrons) not sucked in by his good looks and powerful stature. There is a sequence where Lu challenges her to make a different egg dish which demonstrates how talented she is. Zhou Dongyu who won Best Actress at the recent Golden Horse for her excellent performance in Soul Mate is in scintillating form. She is a dork, but likeable and feisty, like a delectable dish you can’t have enough of. Her face feels like a sponge, soaking up everything life throws at her with the spunk of a child who knows no better.
A lot of the success of a good rom-com depends on the chemistry between the stars and the sparks here feel genuine. There is some good character development on both sides for us to buy into their budding relationship, and enough treacherous detours to make us root for them. The food porn is just extra garnishing for a love dish that is already great.
This is a great date movie but do go in with your tummy filled. It’s time to check into Rosebud Hotel and do make a special request for room 1123. Oh my… my knees are becoming weak again.
3.5 / 5
Kitchen kungfu. Warning, will induce serious hunger pangs.
The theme song sung by Cheer Chen.