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A struggling Chinese-American actor, who unwittingly finds himself involved with a high school girl, learns he has inherited his grandmother's home in Shanghai. The American-raised character moves to China in an attempt to connect with his ancestry, leaving behind quite possibly the only girl who has ever loved him. Written by
Wow an Asian male lead who's more a lover than a fighter...
First of all, this is quite a touching story about a young man learning about himself and what drives him. One could easily see someone like Zach Braff playing the lead role and the movie does have a bit of the feel of Garden State with perhaps even sharper dialog. It would be a good movie without the added dimension of having the a realistic Asian-American male lead, Liam, brilliantly portrayed by Ken Leung. Liam has problems, but not the stereotypical Asian problem of shyness - he's has no problems picking up women of all races (though he prefers blondes) but can't seem to relate to any of them except a precocious teenager (wonderfully played by Hayden Panettiere of Heroes fame) who is off-limits.
He's forced to look deep into his roots when his grandmother whom he's never met leaves her house in Shanghai. The identity conflict that arise from being born in one country but raised in another is what I call the 1.5 generation problem. The first and second generation of immigrants identify with their country of birth, either the old country or the new one, but those of us that are in between are uniquely cognizant of both cultural pulls. It's not so bad in Canada where this is nearly the norm nowadays, but the monoculture in the US and the pressure to choose tribes puts a lot of stress on someone like Liam or I imagine, the writer, David Ren, who are both Asian and American and neither. This struggle is brought out sensitively, naturally and is touching without being overly sentimental or preachy.
I hope this film what Double Happiness and Sandra Oh did for female Asian-Americans (actually Canadian - she's from my home town) and acclimate Hollywood to a multi-faceted realistic male Asian lead. In any case, regardless of the political implications, this is just a good, enjoyable romantic comedy about a young man finding himself and well worth watching.
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