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Liu Xing is a scholarship boy from China, newly arrived in Salt Lake City, a graduate student in cosmology, in Utah to study in Professor Reiser's prestigious program. Back in China, Liu Xing's parents are proud of him, and he dedicates himself to fulfilling their hopes. All the graduate students in the program work on projects that extend and further Reiser's model of the origins of the universe. Liu Xing does well until his own theories move him away from Reiser's. Will Reiser and the department recognize Liu Xing's brilliance? Can the young man's benefactor, Joanna Silver, intercede? Written by
Liu Xing is recruited from China to work as a graduate student under his hero Jacob Reiser (Aidan Quinn). Reiser is famous for his model of physics. Liu Xing joins a group of Chinese students who work for Reiser with little pay. They scrounge for food but Liu Xing paints a pretty picture for his hard-working parents back home. Joanna Silver (Meryl Streep) is a rich benefactor for the Chinese students. Liu Xing falls for coffee girl Jackie (Taylor Schilling) but she doesn't feel the same. He starts to push for a different model than Reiser but he's rejected. As each failure piles up, he breaks down in a volatile way.
I have two main problems with this movie. Firstly, this seems to suggest that China is a free source of third world mental labor. I don't think it works quite as well in the present day but it works better back in 1991. Second, the ending is such a different tone that it damages the movie. The movie desperately needs foreshadowing. Liu Xing needs to have a more complex personality. It's like the movie falls a cliff and there is no warning.
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