Saving Face (2004)
User ReviewsReview this title
It's likely that this movie will have limited distribution, at least at the the beginning. Look for it. You will be glad you did.
Comedy is hard. Really hard. Okay, I'm willing to concede that teenage gross out bathroom humor movies probably aren't too difficult, and don't get me wrong I enjoy a good gastro-intestinal joke as much as the next person, but a movie that makes you laugh (a lot), touches your heart and just plain makes you feel good... well I think that is something quite rare -- especially these days.
Saving Face is one of the funniest, warmest, most heartfelt movies I have seen in a long, long time. Its a smart, insightful movie for adults. And like any really really good romantic comedy it is about much more than what is on the surface. I really don't care that it is Alice Wu's first film (although that makes her accomplishment all the more extraordinary) -- all I care about is that it isn't her last.
I really enjoyed the film especially the daughter-mother relationship along with the grandmother. The way they interact with each other is sometimes a comedy that we would laugh about but realistically won't if we were in their situation. I also find the Chinese translation of the title appropriate as well considering there is no better way that I can translate the Chinese words in English.
Pretty much the movie displays what some (chinese) people go through in the American society (new york city) in the 21st century and the family issues that comes with it. I didn't really like the ending as much so I took out 1 star. Hopefully, the movie industry can produce more movies like this ... possibly focusing this time more on a male character.
It's too bad that I don't have the skill to describe the pleasure of seeing "Saving Face". It's something like the experience of looking into the fire in the fireplace on a cold evening. But it is more like doing that along with someone special while listening to a sultry version of "Someone To Watch Over Me"; just completely different though.
See it! When I saw this motion picture with the "Movies 101" group in NYC, it was plain from the audience reaction that lots of people adored it with me.
One aspect of the film that I really enjoyed is that Wu focused on the disparity between first generation and second generation Chinese Americans. The seemingly unbreakable barriers that needs to be acknowledged, assessed, and overcome are all too familiar to me.
Being born and raised in NYC as a Chinese American, this film breaks the ice and will most likely fast forward progress and understanding for us in America. I feel we needed a movie to just come out and say it - to make a bold statement deeper into the true meaning of accepting one's self. This definitely did it... perfectly too. Saving Face is wonderful and highly recommended!
"Saving Face" is a delicate and delightful romance that explores the clash of cultures of different generations in a Chinese community. The quote: "- The world is getting too hard to predict" defines the conflictive situation of the conservative old generation seeing the modifications of behavior in the younger generations raised in a different culture in their new country. The gorgeous actresses have convincing performances is this entertaining fell-good romantic comedy. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "Livrando a Cara" ("Saving Face")
As a Chinese Canadian Lesbian, this film touches me deeply. I found myself understood and now understand. I was told and was feeling that I am evil and left with no "face" for my caring parents. This film proves me wrong. Thank you.
Alice Wu has directed a movie that has all the right ingredients for a funny comedy. She treats her subject matter with dignity and with taste. We never feel Ms. Wu wants to show explicit sex in order to shock us. On the contrary, the one scene in the movie showing nudity is done elegantly and makes its point without being tacky.
The film seems to point out to what extent certain things are seen as taboo in an ethnic group living in their own secluded circle, not accepting the American culture because of what they perceive as dangerous and evil influences for them and their children. Which is the case of Wil's being gay and having the courage to tell her mother about it. At the same time, Wil's own mother has sinned, as far as her own parents are concerned, because she has become pregnant after living many years as a widow, dedicated to raising a daughter. This is a double whammy for the family that has strong social ties in the community.
As Wil, Michelle Krusiec is good; this young actress shows promise because she does a lot effortlessly. As her love interest, Lynn Chen, makes a beautiful Vivian, the dancer that wins Wil's love. Of course, the best thing in the film is Joan Chen. She makes the mother at the center of the movie mature and accept all the changes fate has thrown her way. These three actresses make "Saving Face" well worth seeing.
No doubt Alice Wu will go to bigger and better things since she shows a promise that is amazing.
This movie is filled with tenderness, humor, and shows that sometimes, you just have to learn to save face.
I personally loved the flow and the feel of the movie, and all the actors did an excellent job. Joan Chen does well in a role that she is not used to playing, but Michelle Krusiec absolutely steals the show as a regular, down-to-earth doctor who happens to like girls, and is just trying her best to be a good Taiwanese daughter.
The chemistry between her and Lynn Chen (who plays her love interest) is absolutely believable, and is very refreshing as it manages to avoid a lot of crude lesbian stereotyping.
Anyone looking for some insight into the dynamics of most Chinese societies/families should watch this, as should anyone who wants a nice feel-good comedy that actually delivers on its comedy part. I split my sides laughing at many points in the movie, and had to actually rewind the DVD to catch all the stuff I missed while trying to stop laughing.
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this to anyone who enjoys a chick-flick, and look forward to Ms. Wu's next project.
In her writing/directing debut, Alice Wu creates three-dimensional personalities who have little to do with either the usual immigrant or the specifically Asian stereotypes, even as the characters tellingly reflect their age and gender cohort.
The emphasis is on the women in the family as, amusingly, the widowed mother and her doctor daughter turn out to each be rebels from their insular community in their own surprising ways, as they in turn become feast for gossip fodder in their close-knit neighborhood (this may be the first movie filmed in Flushing's sprawling Chinatown).
Through mostly subtitled dialog the film affectionately shows the closeness of families and friends who are intimately on top of each other's business and the impact when some don't follow the straight and narrow. A Chinese-American woman in the audience from the area pointed out to me that the subtitles don't quite get across the film's acuity in reflecting how the different generations use the language, from the more formal grandparents to the more colloquial parents to the Americanized twenty-somethings using "Chinglish" in communicating more complicated feelings and activities, though the actors well use body language when their characters feel linguistically frustrated in either direction.
The model minority pressures on all the generations are shown in unconventional ways, from the grandfather's tales of surviving the Cultural Revolution to a father's pressures on a dancer to be a prima ballerina. There is gently pointed commentary about Asian-American experiences threaded through, in attitudes towards other groups, as all the relationships here are intra-Chinese-American, and when the bored mother asks for Chinese films in a video store and pretty much only finds films that the actress Joan Chen herself starred in next to stereotyped porno films (as simultaneously her daughter and lover are making their own explicit erotic explorations) -- it's almost a running joke when other characters suddenly realize how beautiful she is. The daughter's mentoring attending surgeon is also a Chinese-American and the jokes all share about two-degrees of separation in their ethnic community are droll comparisons to playing "Jewish geography." The romantic plot twists at the end start to become guessable just before their revelations, but at that point we are really rooting for the women to succeed on their terms. Chen's trajectory as a middle-aged unmarried woman finding herself concludes a bit too sweetly, but is still unconventional. Michelle Krusiec spiritedly conveys a woman who can be a successful surgical resident but who also faithfully spends her Friday nights as a dutiful daughter, even while struggling with her own identity.
The film makes marvelous use of its Queens locations, from Astoria's rooftop views of Manhattan to local restaurants and realistic apartments and houses (the credits list more parking coordinators than most action films list drivers), as well as to elevated subways and the Main Street subway station.
The soundtrack also communicates the notion of lives parallel to the mainstream with lovely cover songs, including by Leona Naess and Cat Power.
Coincidentally, the film shares several plot points, though with a different tone, with another new film, "Red Doors," that was just screened at the Tribeca Film Festival and is scheduled for fall release.
One comment noted that there has been a few Asian lesbian flicks ... perhaps, though I am not really familiar with them. Still, the film does have that preciousness to it ... the liberal viewer is pleased that the film is so open-minded, etc. (lesbian daughter, somewhat closedminded mom who then again did have a secret relationship that led to her getting pregnant, etc.) And, life is just not filled with people that we all can just plain love. ... sometimes, people remain closedminded, even after 90 minutes.
But, who goes to the movies for total reality anyway? The movie is fun, the characters are people we care about, and it is definitely a feel good experience. Joan Chen as the mom is quite good, but so are the others, including the lesbian daughter and her new ballet g/f -- they definitely make a nice couple, and the grandparents. Only the black next door neighbor does not really come off as a full character.
The movie as a whole is well shot, including the scenes at the hospital, and it takes care of the obligatory final third pretty well. One complaint, though a minor one, is that the movie only translates some of the Chinese early on. A few times this apparently was a problem since the Chinese woman next to me laughed at a few of the untranslated comments! Lol. Still, the subtitles generally was fine as well.
Take a star or two off if you find this sort of thing a bit too predictable and add a star if you are totally in the mood for this sort of thing.
It's funny,witty and deals with modern day issues. Actually, old problems - love,but in new ways.
It's worth seeing and I can't wait for another movie from Alice Wu. I think she reached her goal : "What I really wanted is that a 25-year-old white guy could suddenly relate to a 48-year-old Chinese woman ...or a 50-year-old black man could relate to a 29-year-old Chinese doctor. If that works, I've done my job. Once we strip away the differences, we're remarkably similar."
Good luck with "Foreign Babes in Beijing "
The topic of homosexuality is perfectly addressed because, well, they keep it real. Nothing to do with other "hollywoodian" gay films. This one knows when to be deep, and when to be light.
It is a perfect combination that leaves you with a heavy heart and a smile on your lips.
As for the cast, they do a wonderful job! Joan Chen brings her character to life and she is really funny. Michelle Krusiek is simply adorable and her role as a doctor totally suits her. Whatsmore, she is the cutest shy and confused lesbian, a little clumsy on the side, but always lovable. As for Lynn Chen, she's just beautiful and sexy but not in a pretentious way (which is nice to see for once).
The love love story is totally believable and every emotion carried by the characters feels right and sincere. Finally, a great movie! Alice Wu did an amazing job!