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Robert De Niro,
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
The events in this movie are loosely based on a shooting that occurred in 1991 on the Iowa City campus of the University of Iowa. The shooter, 28-year-old physicist 'Gang Lu' (qav), had recently received his PhD from the university's Physics and Astronomy Department, but believed that his failure to win a dissertation prize had kept him from getting a job as a professor. On November 1, 1991, he attended a departmental meeting, and shortly after the meeting started he shot three of his former professors and the winner of the prize he had wanted. He then walked to a different campus building and shot an administrator whom he felt had ignored his grievances, as well as a student employee in the grievance office. Gang Lu then committed suicide by shooting himself. All of the shooting victims died from their wounds except for the student employee, who was paralyzed from the neck down. See more »
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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