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A chef, three gay sons, and a French foreign exchange student
Hainan ji fan (2004), shown in the U.S. with the title Rice Rhapsody, was written and directed by Kenneth Bi. It stars Sylvia Chang as Jen, the proprietor of a Chinese restaurant in Singapore.
Jen's professional life is going well, but she is depressed because her two older sons are gay, and she believes her youngest son may be gay as well. The script introduces an outside character--Sabine, played by Mélanie Laurent--who is a French foreign exchange student living with the family.
The plot is fairly predictable--the gay sons are very gay, the rival chef who wants to marry Jen is very persistent, and the exchange student is very sophisticated and very French. Unfortunately, the movie goes in several directions. When you read the promotional material, you expect Sabine's relationship to the family to be pivotal. Actually, her character sort of drifts in and out, making worldly and adorably French comments as she goes past. Without that plot anchor, the film more or less drifts aimlessly along to a Hollywood-style conclusion.
However, Singapore is--for me--an exotic and unknown location, and I enjoyed the fabulous views of the city. The cooking scenes were very well handled, and the acting was solid. Production values were high.
This film was shown as a 35mm print, which I think is the best way to see it. It will work on DVD, but not quite as well. It's not worth making a great effort to seek out the movie, but it's still worth seeing. (We saw it at the Rochester NY Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival.)
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