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The central character of "The Wedding Banquet" looks
sullen through almost the entire movie. He knits
his brow and ponders as if there were something
troubling him to no end. At the very outset, it's
quite clear what that is. Wai-Tung is gay, and he
hasn't told his Taiwanese parents. He's annoyed
with his mother's unwelcome attempts to match him
with someone, so she can have what she wants: a
grandchild. But he's afraid to tell her or his
father why he is not interested. His mixed emotions
have no place to go; so they sit on his face,
incomplete and unexpressed, except as unresolved
anger, much of it at himself. And it's fun to watch
as he goes through the motions of pleasing family
and lover and acquaintances to take his mind off his
The script by director Ang Lee, and associates Neil Peng and James Schamus have written a crackerjack story full of things that never have hit the screen before. The wedding banquet itself is full of such insightful details about contemporary Chinese-American life and sentiment that there seems something accomplished that's new to the movies. When the wedding party invades the honeymoon suite, you feel like the writers have a firm grasp on the people they are presenting us, as if they know them, inside and out. I have seen five movies directed by Ang Lee, and this (and maybe his earlier "Pushing Hands") is the only one in which I felt he had a deep understanding of the characters, and for that matter, of human nature and human love.
Filial piety may not be a new thing for the Chinese, and maybe that is why this movie feels rooted, grounded. Wai-Tung who is a successful businessman and landlord commands respect among his colleagues, but when he's with his parents, he's still their little boy. You laugh as this grown man walks with his father, head bowed, keeping exact pace, two steps back, and you realize the secret of the older man's hold on his imitator. Wai-Tung loves his parents, and he knows what they expect. He's ashamed that he doesn't want to fulfill their dreams, that he wants a life of his own, that he didn't turn out as they hoped. But he also cares about his lover Simon, and you know what has drawn them together is that they care about other people. (Simon is a physical therapist who likes lecturing his clients; Wai-Tung tries to appear in charge, but he always seems to be taken advantage of by the people around him.) This concern for others is what draws us to Wai-Tung, and when his parents appear, you know exactly why he's going along with deceiving them.
Winston Chao is handsome and lithe, and he's good at playing a frazzled, bewildered, well-meaning lump. Yet he wouldn't be so likable, if it were not for the propinquity of Mitchell Lichtenstein who clearly has the expressiveness the movie needs. Although the movie comes dangerously close to being one about gay men in love who, in their most private moments, look like the most they do is shake hands, Lichtenstein ("Streamers") manages with the subtlest means to convey a sexual connection. The scene in which Simon presents a cell phone as a gift and carries on a conversation to test it affords Lichtenstein the chance to show what heat he can generate on the screen when he's called to do so. It makes evident how lucky a man Wai-Tung is, and why he'd allow himself to be emotionally torn for so long.
But the most compelling performances here come from Sihung Lung (who played the unwanted father-in-law in "Pushing Hands") and Ah Lei Gua as Mr. and Mrs. Gao. Lung conveys Old-World benevolence that pretty much dictates where this movie goes. He more than fills the shoes of the aging warrior, taking the last few steps that will make his life complete. He grants Mr. Gao a share of dignity his work here rightly deserves. Yet it is Ah Lei Gua who convinces me that she is fully in character. Whether she is bursting into tears over the shabbiness of the civil wedding, or trying to overlook her daughter-in-law's clumsiness in the kitchen, or keeping Simon at a distance when she learns his real position in her son's life, you sense an actress of the highest rank who knows intuitively the character she has been given to play.
With May Chin who, I hear, is very popular in Taiwan, and here carries herself with porcelain elegance. Her Wei-Wei is an enigma, a woman with a penchant for handsome gay men, and the movie is content with leaving her that way. You come away as uneasy about the arrangement she struck with Simon and Wai-Tung as Mrs. Gao is, who exits weeping. When Ang Lee slows down the camera at the end, as Mr. Gao raises his arms to be inspected at the airport gate, the director in spite of himself belies the thought that the old soldier has surrendered to a new enemy--the craziness and the self-indulgence of the next generation. The plangency of that last shot remains with you for a long time.
I really loved this film, I knew nothing about it before I saw it and so
It's a great example of modern day life and combines so many issues of today - sexuality, cross-cultural life, tradition/modernity etc. But it's not a "gay" film and it's not a "foreign" film, it mixes these elements really well into a very typically Hollywood story. But it is also able to use them to comment on social stereotypes and grouping, but without blatantly doing so.
The characters are all very likeable and I really felt sympathy for the positions they were all in - a young man (Wai-tung) trying to please both his parents and his partner Simon, an illegal immigrant (Wei-wei) who wants to stay in America, and Wai-tung's boyfriend Simon trying his best to be accommodating and patient though feeling pushed out of the family.
The messages of this film about tolerance and honesty are not pushed in your face. It's a very easygoing film that is very funny in some places and sad in others. There are some subtitles and some is in English because we, the audience, must learn to integrate our own way of life with others, just like the people in the film.
Ang Lee already was a masterful director before his three triumphs
Sense and Sensibility, The Ice Storm, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden
Dragon (for which he was ROBBED of Oscars by the likes of Mel Gibson
and Steven Soderburg). Maybe children might be a little young for this,
but it is indeed a "family film" like no other. And the new
"daughter-in-law" is hilarious (although you might think she goes too
far in one important-to-the-plot scene). The funniest scene is the
courthouse nuptials, and the banquet itself makes you wish you were
After ten years, this film still does not seem dated at all, which I thought it would. The only thing missing is a HOT love scene with Winston Chao and Mitchell Lichtenstein, who looks far younger than his age. I know if I was in that situation, I'd want to blow off some steam! The best part is the just before finale, the father has a great quiet scene with one of the other cast members. Have some tissues on hand for the ending.
It's best to own a copy of this film, that way you won't be tempted to watch it every time it comes on "Bravo". It's an absolute delight, one of the best of the decade, definitely in the Top 50 of best comedies of all time, at least.
This film is about a gay Chinese man having to bow down to parental
pressure and marry a woman.
IMDb lists this film as comedy. There are comedic scenes such as the post wedding party. Yes, the party is hardly an exaggeration, it is actually done according to the Chinese culture! However, I think The Wedding banquet is better be viewed as a drama. The plot of this film is probably the life story of many gay men of Chinese descent. It is simple, and yet truthful, realistic, touching and affecting.
The main character, Wai-Tung, faces enormous pressure to get married. However, he is actually in love with a Westerner called Andrew. The film fully portrays the pressure Wai-Tung faces because of parental and societal pressure. It also displays how preaches acceptance and tolerance. The ending is so touching, and even months after watching the film, I can still remember the ending.
This is an excellent film. For men who are in situations similar to Wai-Tung, The Wedding Banquet will resonate with them forever. Even if you are not in a similar situation, this film is so touching that it is a must watch!
The Wedding Banquet is a truly inspiring and cross-culturally
challenging film. It touches on many issues/themes which have never
been combined before in one movie: Taiwanese Americans vs. Chinese
Americans, Asian American families, old school parents vs. younger
generation(s), multi-racial couples, gay couples, gay Asian Americans,
immigrants, pride, family values and love.
And while I found the ending of this movie somewhat unrealistic (I'll let other viewers decide) I also found the film challenging and optimistic (which is where my realism takes over).
You should watch this movie if you are Asian gay Asian AND gay or simply want to learn something about another culture. You might be surprised!
Props to Ang Lee for creating a unique opportunity to look into two very distinct and different cultures at the same time: Asian American and gays in the early 90s.
The Wedding Banquet is marketed as a comedy, but it is more than that.
Closer in plot and style to Green Card than The Birdcage it examines the
personal consequences of deceit. The comedy is there of course, but so is
much tenderness and pain as a marriage of convenience between a gay man and a
woman deportee unravels. Like Green Card which had similar plotlines, the
"obvious" resolutions do not appear so likely as the film progresses which
adds to its attractiveness.
I recommend it highly.
Ang Lee with infinite wisdom seems to be saving the best part of this film
for last. Acceptance is the underlying theme of this movie, which I recently
watched for the second time. I saw the film when it was originally released
in 1993. At that time, it seemed to have been breaking ground for tolerance
from the straight world toward gays, in general.
Ang Lee is one of the best film directors working these days. This is a small film in comparison to what came afterward. The story of how parents in a conservative society view their children that are "different" is always an interesting idea. Those same parents produced that child; the mere idea they will turn their backs to a son who is living openly as a gay man is a complex problem, at best.
Different cultures react differently, as is the case in this film. While the parents are not completely taken over by the way they discover their son has turned out to be, they go along with the flow, never condemning the son, his partner, or the young woman who is pretending to be, what she is not.
The acting is good in general, but it has to be the actor who plays the father, who ultimately wins one's heart. His culture goes back for centuries and he is won by his son's lover because he sees how kind, decent and honest he really is.
It's better never to judge, or so it seems that Ang Lee is telling us.
I suppose The Wedding Banquet could be considered a romantic comedy. It is so in the best senses of both words: romantic without being sappy, and comedic without being ridiculous. The characters are vibrant and interesting without being cliches. Ang Lee has not created a great movie, simply a perfect one.
Hsi yen (The Wedding Banquet) is an enjoyable movie to watch. It does not matter if you are acquainted with Ang Lee's work. The film is about a woman wants to stay in the country gets married to a gay man. The man tries to hide being gay when his parents visit from out of the country. All of the performances are excellent in this picture.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I saw the movie I Berlin, Germany, and I cherished it, the acting perfomance of each actor was superb, the father that deep in his soul knew all, and for him was more important the family line was not broken. The only difficult moment, maybe a doubt from the director or the writer of the play, was when she decided to have the baby, it seemed that they didn't really know what to do, myself I'll adopt him/her as my own child. It reminded me the argentinian way, first is the family, then you.
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