Writer-turned-director Guo Jingming brings his series of adaptations of his own Shanghai-set romance novels to a close.
Catfights, cancer, corporate conspiracies, cosmetic surgery: Chinese novelist-turned-filmmaker Guo Jingming has thrown in everything but the kitchen sink in Tiny Times 4.0, the latest and final installment in his tetralogy of adaptations of his novels about the fluctuating friendships among four young women in modern-day Shanghai. 女人之间的你争我斗，癌症，商业阴谋，整容手术：中国作家、导演郭敬明在《小时代4》这部电影上可谓投入了所有的元素。《小时代4》作为由其小说改编而成的四部曲之终结篇，讲述了四个生活在魔都上海的女人之间的友谊。
Just like his characters, however, Guo seems to have not matured into his new artistic calling: despite being flanked by two "executive directors," he remains completely at a loss in adapting his material to the constraints of the film medium. He simply doesn't do structure and subtlety, as is evident in the awkwardly reshot and re-edited scenes aimed at reducing the presence of the drug-busted and black-listed actor Kai Ko.
The myriad cracks in the previous installments have largely been papered over by Guo's near-maximalist representation of material excess. Indifference is not actually an option when confronted with something so over-the-top and in-your-face.
And after the plethora of characters being thrown into the mix in the third film - most of them young hunks bearing the same muscular physique and furrowed-brow expression - the labyrinthine web of relationships poses a near-impenetrable challenge for anyone beyond the diehard.
Picking up where the third film left off, 4.0 mostly revolves around the trials of Lily (the bankable Amber Kuo), the once-rich queen bee who finds herself near financial ruin because of the debts left behind by her father. Guo has given Lily the trial of having to combat a newly diagnosed cancer. Too proud to seek solace from anyone
around her, Lily sets off a chain of self-destructive events which lead to her estrangement from erstwhile best friends Lin Xiao (Mini Yang).
As Tiny Times soars into its climactic grand finale, tragedies abound as relationships are cast asunder. Lin Xiao's personal and private lives spiral into oblivion in quick succession; the femme fatale of the four, Nan Xiang reveals her true social-climbing colors as she eases her way into the heart of her boss (Vivian Dawson); and Ruby, the jester of the group, recoils from contact with anyone else as she struggles to recover from the disfiguring aftermath of her falling out with her friends.
Probably more at ease unveiling his intertwining storylines across wide swathes of space in print, Guo struggles to pace his plotlines. Rather than offering a script in which characters are sketched out of small but revealing and symbolic gestures, he has instead hedged his bets on pretty faces striking poses which try and fail to signify sadness. Tiny Times 4.0 is an anti-climax that brings an erstwhile controversial and cacophonous cinematic juggernaut to a whimpering close.