Quitting (Chinese)

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From the “it’s true, and isn’t that interesting enough?” line of thinking comes “Quitting,” a Chinese film that, in fact, is NOT interesting enough.

Actually, its premise is intriguing. Jia Hongsheng was a successful young actor in China in the 1980s, appearing in several popular films and doing acclaimed work in a stage production of “Kiss of the Spider Woman.” Then he turned to drugs and alcohol, fell to pieces, and was aided to recovery when his parents — also actors — moved in with him and his sister in Beijing. “Quitting” tells that true story — with the actual people involved re-enacting their real lives. (It is helpful, I suppose, that the three primary figures happened to be actors. A story about, say, a plumber putting his life back together might not have fared so well, if you had the plumber play himself.)

Hongsheng’s parents’ devotion to him is touching, and his father’s attempts to find a much-desired Beatles cassette tape is amusing and sweet. I am also tickled by the Chinese translation of the lyrics to “Let It Be.” (The title comes out “Take It Naturally.”)

However, as directed and written by Zhang Yang (who did last year’s sentimental “Shower”), “Quitting” settles into a groove that soon becomes a rut. There is too much repetition in Hongsheng’s relapses, his parents’ anger and frustration, and his friends’ unsupportiveness. The story, true or not, ought to have been streamlined; the 112 minutes of the film could easily have been condensed into 90 without losing any of the potential power — power that, as it turns out, remains mostly untapped.

C (; PG-13, some profanity.)

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