Jake Roedel and Jack Bull Chiles are friends in Missouri when the Civil War starts. Women and Blacks have few rights. Jack Bull's dad is killed by Union soldiers, so the young men join the ... See full summary »
Master Chu, a retired Chinese Tai-Chi master, moves to Westchester, New York to live with his son Alex, his American daughter-in-law Martha, and their son Jeremy. However, Martha's second novel is suffering from severe writers' block brought on by Chu's presence in the house. Alex must struggle to keep his family together as he battles an inner conflict between cultural tradition and his modern American lifestlye. Written by
Lee's debut is competent but not good. The touching intergenerational - cross cultural story is marred by an uneven script, poor acting and shoddy production
Ang Lee's Pushing Hands is not a good movie. It offers a sometimes touching, sometimes humorous story about a retired Tai Chi master who comes to America from China to live with his son, his son's wife and their young boy. To its credit, the film serves up inter-generational, cross cultural tensions in a way that avoids seeming too cliché and too trite. Old people and young people are different. Dealing with the difference can be hard. This is the film's plain truth. There's nothing wrong with plain truth, and in some instances it can be refreshing.
Unfortunately, the acting, the aimless direction, glaring production mistakes and - most importantly - an uneven screenplay prevent this truth from coming forward with the grace that much of the filmed Tai Chi has. Regarding the performances, all but the Tai Chi master, played by Shihung Lung, are fairly stiff. It's fortunate that the exception is the main character but lacking a strong supporting cast, the film is left uneven. The direction begins interestingly, with shots through windows becoming an early motif, but soon becomes pedestrian; any suggested meaning from interesting framing or mise en scene are lost. The glaring production problem was that on three occasions an overhead microphone was visible in the shots. I'm sure there's an old Chines proverb about this.
But the main problem is that one character receives unsympathetic treatment by Lee's screenplay and direction: Martha, the white daughter-in-law to the Tai Chi master. She is written as a self-absorbed and even vicious woman. She's a writer who is shot pouting because she has to share her home with a kind hearted old man. As he seeks inner peace through martial arts, she only sees him as a disturbance to her peaceful home. Characters needn't be sympathetic, but it makes the movie too simple, as if were she nicer, the generational/cultural tensions would disappear.
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