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
What is it that you want Jade?
To win the Academy Award.
And I get invited to the ceremony?
Of course. You know, I'd get nominated for a really dramatic part. Something really hard and real. I don't know, something that I had to, like, gain weight for. Something.
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This was a cute, sweet small movie about a Chinese-Canadian woman caught between her dreams and her father's expectations. Complaints about the film center on what some see as the director's one-sided depiction of the anti-assimilation viewpoint. Jade's father is so concerned that his children live within the constricts of traditional Chinese culture that he cuts off contact with them entirely if they stray. But Mina Shum (the director) never claims that his rigidity is the rule; the story is about how Jade deals with the specific situation, and it makes no claim that her situation is pervasive. Other Asian characters have different levels of acceptance of Western openness: Jade's mother, while not openly defying her husband, maintains contact with her son whom his father has cut off completely. So "Double Happiness" isn't an anti-Asian traditionalism screed, as some have claimed, neither is it an Everywoman story of freedom as some seem to want it to be. It's simply Jade's story about choosing between her dreams and the man she's falling in love with against her father's uncompromising worldview.
Mechanically, the movie is good if not a masterpiece. The performances are excellent. Sandra Oh is charged with almost singlehandedly winning over the viewer, and she's completely up to the challenge. All performances are (as far as I can tell anyway) wonderfully authentic. This was Callum Keith Rennie's first major role, and he's as awkward, sweet, and appealing as ever. The interstitial scenes of characters speaking to the camera are an interesting experiment--a good tool for revealing character, they nevertheless are sometimes jarring. Overall, the film is like a compact colorful flower: it won't dominate the landscape but it richly awards the lucky soul whose attention it captures.
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