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The Soong family was a political dynasty in China that reached the highest levels of power. This film follows the lives of the three Soong daughters, who were educated in America and returned to China. Ai-ling (the oldest) married a wealthy and powerful businessman. Ching-ling married Sun Yat-sen, the revolutionary founder of modern China. Mei-ling (the youngest) married Chiang Kai-shek, China's leader during World War II. The sisters captured the world's fascination for their brilliant marriages and their strong influence on their nation. Written by
On the eve of the turnover to China, Mabel Cheung decides to soft-pedal (some might say "warp") history in favor of the party line. This is not so much the story as legend of the Soong Sisters, three well-educated Chinese women who (as the saying goes) respectively married for a love of wealth, a love of power, and a love of China.
As a soft-hued, Stanley Kwan-ish period piece, the melodrama works well enough. As a character study of these singular women, it is disturbingly deficient; only Maggie Cheung as Ching-Ling, the socially conscious husband of Sun Yat Sen figures close to what we know. As history...well, let's just say that the film is oblivious to the oldest sister's well-documented draconian schemings, not to mention the youngest's public charisma crossed with spoiled petulance.
It's critical to the film that these three extraordinary women be portrayed as personable; as Ai-ling, the oldest sister, Michelle Yeoh is always engaging and instantly likable. The real Ai-ling may have put on a show for friends and diplomats, but the record tells a different story, which includes political assassination and worse. A film has to be evaluated on its honesty, the The Soong Sisters -- perhaps consciously, perhaps not -- tells lies that brutalized generations.
This film does have extraordinary set-decoration and photography, and its story is quietly engaging. A few even sniffled at the poignant finish. I can imagine there's just as much reason to react in anger. If you must, see it for the high-budget glory, but dismiss it as anything but fiction.
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