A look at challenges facing modern women

Xu Wei
"Crossroad Bistro" marks the first time Chinese filmmaker Feng Xiaogang has sat down in the series creator chair since the 1995 TV series "Ground Covered with Chicken Feathers."
Xu Wei

Chinese filmmaker Feng Xiaogang had been absent from directing drama series for 26 years. Over the past few decades, he has helmed many box office hits of different genres, including comedy flicks "The Dream Factory," "Cell Phone," war epic "Assembly" and satire movie "I Am Not Madame Bovary."

"Bei Zhe Nan Yuan," also known as "Crossroad Bistro," marks the first time he has sat down in the series creator chair since the 1995 TV series "Ground Covered with Chicken Feathers."

Starring popular actresses Lan Yingying, Jin Chen and Wang Luodan, the online drama revolves around five women who open a restaurant together in Beijing. As they run the restaurant, the women gradually learn to take more responsibilities in life, become more confident and independent and find their true love.

The title of the show is the name of the restaurant in the series, derived from a Chinese idiom that one's action has the opposite effect of one's intention.

A look at challenges facing modern women
Ti Gong

"Crossroad Bistro"

Before it aired on iQiyi, many of Feng's fans had high expectations, as the story incorporates eye-catching modern elements such as entrepreneurship and the growth of urban women. 

"Bei Zhe Nan Yuan" is currently the hottest drama on iQiyi, but its reviews are polarized among viewers. 

Some viewers who give it positive reviews compare the series to a new version of the 2016 hit Chinese drama series "Ode To Joy." Set in Shanghai, this drama inspired women in big, fast-paced cities to face up to all of life's difficulties and challenges. 

Netizen "Beer can't comfort me" said on iQiyi that director Feng hasn't let him down. Instead, Feng provides new surprises in the show.

"With all his refined and stunning shots, Feng tells me that life is full of uncertainties," he said. "It's never everything you expect. People should learn to cherish their time with family and friends."

Some are impressed by the real-life issues the show touches on, such as children's education, elderly care and extramarital affairs. 

Netizen "A beast in human face" said on China's film and TV review website Douban that the dialogues in the show retain Feng's humorous and sarcastic style toward certain social topics, and some are full of wits.  

Huang Bo plays a celebrated "performing artist" who never reads scripts or memorizes lines for his roles – his mouth just mumbles numbers. The character pokes fun at some of today's young idols, who depend on dubbing and post-production techniques to act. 

Many reviews give its cinematography, set design and music high marks.

However, there are also viewers who express an unfavorable opinion of "Bei Zhe Nan Yuan." 

Negative reviews primarily center on the logic of the script, as well as ungrounded scenes and characters. 

If the female characters are designed to be ordinary people struggling for a better life, how come they're all depicted like the rich and elite people living in big houses in Beijing? 

Also, some abrupt product placement reminds them of Guo Jingming's film "Tiny Times," which most viewed as a teen drama that extols friendship while cashing a product placement check.

"Obviously director Feng hasn't observed and known ordinary people's real daily lives for a long time," said Netizen "543" on Douban. "Stories about the sophisticated and pretentious women don't resonate with us ordinary people." 

The script is also criticized for being illogical, for the five women's friendship and partnership come together in a fast, strange way.

"Even some epic dramas with revolutionary themes such as 'The Awakening Era' can be made into works beloved by today's young people," said Gu Xiaoming, a film and TV critic with Fudan University. "The key is whether the director can grasp the meaningful and shocking things in other people's lives, and present them on the screen with new aesthetic fashion and means that cater to today's audience."

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