The lives of an English working-class family are told out of order in a free-associative manner. The first part, "Distant Voices", focuses on the father's role in the family. The second part, "Still Lives", focuses on his children.
Twenty-two year old Chinese-Canadian Jade Li comes from a traditional Chinese family, who try to put on the perfect public persona at all cost so as to "save face". One primary part of this persona is prosperity. Jade's father hopes that true financial prosperity will become reality through penny stocks. Because of its instability, Jade's parents don't understand or widely publicize Jade's aspirations to be an actress. Their main want for Jade is to date and marry a nice Chinese boy, a goal for which Jade's extended family also strives as they are always trying to introduce her to Chinese boys. They believe that *the* boy is Andrew, with whom Jade even agrees to go out. But Jade, beyond wanting to be an actress, wishes her family had more western sensibilities. She is attracted to a slightly awkward but persistent Caucasian English graduate student named Mark. Jade has to figure out how to both please her family, who would not approve of her dating a Caucasian, and be true to herself.Written by
Mina Shum's Double Happiness bravely explores a group that mainstream film (read: Hollywood) continues to ignore: Asians in North America. That the film features strong acting, good writing and confident direction makes its accomplishments all the more greater.
You don't need to be Asian to enjoy this film, anymore than you have to be Italian to watch The Godfathers. Young women of whatever ethnic backgrounds are bound to identify with the lead character, finely played by Sandra Oh. The daughter-father conflict crosses all national boundaries, and is explored in this film through the eyes of Chinese-Canadians.
I'm a Canadian of Chinese descent, and found the characterizations of the family to be accurate overall. At times, the domineering Father is one-dimensional (tyrannical and cold) and needed to be fleshed out more. The role of the siblings--especially towards their parents--was underplayed and could have offered a contrast to the main relationship between the elder daughter and Dad.
Still, the strict traditionalism of the parents was on the nose, and the struggles of the daughter, Jade, ring true. In fact, I venture to say that Jade was played *too* obediently, and should have broken from her family sooner.
Following this line of thought, the film could have been expanded to explore Jade moving into her own home and finding her own career as an actress, then reconciling (perhaps) with her stern Father at the end.
As it stands, the movie ends abruptly and too soon. Shum and Oh do a fine job of getting Jade on the audience's side, only pull the carpet on her just as she leaves home. The movie begs for closure in the relationship between daughter and father.
Perhaps in the sequel.
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