Director Zhang Yang's Quitting, which chronicles the rise and fall of Chinese actor Jia Hongsheng, is a difficult film in several respects. It's not an easy chore to watch a person's life crumble, and here the task is made even more taxing by virtue of the fact that this movie is based on a true story and, amazingly, its cast is comprised entirely by real people portraying themselves. In addition to traditional narrative filmmaking, Yang mixes documentary-like interview footage with several scenes where the camera pulls back to reveal the actors performing the material on the set of a play. Yang's inventiveness is commendable, but his daring causes the film to become derailed on several occasions. Add to that a pace which makes the second half of the film crawl to the finish, and ultimately Qutting can feel a bit too unnecessarily weighed down and excessive.
Jia Hongsheng was on the cusp of stardom in the 1980s, having gained fame playing the roles of villains in several Chinese B-movies. The actor, however, suffered from extreme emotional instability and his experimentation with drugs led to a quick fall from grace. As his mental state continued to fracture, Jia's parents -- fellow actors who were long-time members of a theater troupe in Northern China -- packed up all of their belongings and moved in with their son, who was sharing an apartment with his sister. The road to recovery was, of course, beset by a multitude of pitfalls, eventually leading Jia's family to institutionalize the man.
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