Frankie Chen’s Fall in Love at First Kiss (一吻定情) adds another entry to the list of Kaoru Tada’s manga, Itazura Na Kiss screen adaptations (which has spawned various television series in Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and Taiwan). Chen’s version takes a closer approach to the first Taiwanese incarnation, It Started with a Kiss (惡作劇之吻), especially by using the established character names and settings. While the plot might sound eerie and unhealthy in deeper observation, the movie’s sugarcoating—with bubble-gum visuals and comical characters—can, at times, divert the attention to a distant lesson.
Just like The Killers’ lyrics in Mr. Brightside, it started out with a kiss… an accidental one between a low-achieving, poor Xiang-qin (Jelly Lin, Stephen Chow’s The Mermaid) and a crazy rich, super-achiever Zhi-shu (Darren Wang). Despite the different world between them, Xiang-qin confesses her love to Zhi-shu only to meet an embarrassing rejection. And yet, life still tangles up together; in a silly twist of fate, Xiang-qin moves to Zhi-shu’s house and they’re technically living together.
In brief, the whole plot of Fall in Love at First Kiss is comical at best and absurd at worst. Xiang-qin’s hell-bent love pursuit is rather frustrating to watch because she often fell into the self-degrading act, which is out of sense, by all means. Meanwhile, Zhi-shu’s constant dismissal makes the impression that he’s a non-developing, one-sided character—simply unattainable and rude. The frustration spurts out for a reason: the movie never ventures deeper than the surface. The whys—why Xiang-qin desperately wants to be with Zhi-shu and why Zhi-su arrogantly pushes Xiang-qin away throughout the duration of the movie—are never observed or explained, even when the movie’s taking almost two hours spinning around it.
The awaited twist came in late—around fifteen minutes before the credit rolls. Fall in Love at First Kiss beautifully wraps the whole fuss with a warm and cute conclusion that, surprisingly, works given the movie’s frustrating tug of war before it. The real treat came in with super late retribution, a flashback that might change the audience’s prior perspective. While the late stunner is sweet, it might not wash away the toxic nature of the story; yet, at least, it gives a lovely remark about love and how love can grow.
Jelly Lin’s performance is pleasing as she’s becoming the crown jewel of the movie. The energy she emanates gives a delicate twist to the movie’s comical absurdity. Had the heartfelt atmosphere of the conclusion made ways all along with the movie, Fall in Love at First Kiss might deliver a more heartwarming romance that pays beautiful tribute to the source material, whichever it refers to.
Fall in Love at First Kiss (2019)
Romance, Drama, Comedy, Adaptation Directed by: Frankie Chen Written by: Huang Jirou, Yung-Ting Tseng based on manga by Kaoru Tada Starred by: Jelly Lin, Darren Wang Runtime: 123 mins