A Fantastic Ghost Wedding
is a movie starring
Sandra Kwan Yue Ng, Mark Lee, and Sui-man Chim.
A Fantastic Ghost Wedding is the story of a young popular spirit medium, who is hired to find a spouse for a dead teenage boy. The chosen bride turns out to be an unexpected person, and ...
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A Fantastic Ghost Wedding is the story of a young popular spirit medium, who is hired to find a spouse for a dead teenage boy. The chosen bride turns out to be an unexpected person, and this snowballs into a series of events culminating in a Chinese ghost wedding.Written by
Better and stronger in concept than execution, but the film's cast and message are well worth the watch.
Death and the afterlife are pretty grim topics for a comedy, but writer-director Meng Ong just about pulls it off in A Fantastic Ghost Wedding. This darkly amiable film isn't quite as polished as you might hope, and stumbles badly in an oddly-executed final act. But it wears its big, silly, open heart on its sleeve, and is buoyed by a very good, totally game cast led by two of the region's most adept comedians - Hong Kong's Sandra Ng and Singapore's Mark Lee.
Washed-up former singer Mrs Wu (Ng) is beside herself with grief. Peng (Wang Po Chieh), her beloved son, has been found dead in a local river, taking with him her heart and her hopes for his future. She comforts herself by spoiling him with luxury items in the afterlife, and soon, she finds herself contemplating another old Chinese ritual for the dead: finding him a wife. She enlists the services of Master Wong (Mark Lee) and his adorable apprentice/son Boy (Keane Chan). But the hunt for a perfect match for Peng takes an unexpected turn: one that forces Mrs Wu to really examine her relationship with her son, just as Master Wong must evaluate the pressure he places on his Boy to take over the spooky family business.
Ong's script does a fairly effective job of balancing the tragedy and comedy of Mrs Wu's situation: she harangues everyone around her, including her gloomy husband (Jim Chim), into getting the very best in afterlife amenities for her son. But there's a real sadness here to her loss, one that plays very well into the twist embedded into her search for a daughter-in-law. It's a point many of us can take to heart: you can love someone without ever really listening to them, or accepting them for who they really are. For every moment of madcap silliness (Master Wong trying to pinpoint a wife for Peng outside a factory full of female workers), A Fantastic Ghost Wedding finds something almost painfully truthful to say about losing sight of the people you love while they're still alive.
It's a shame, then, that the film loses track of itself in its final third. Even as Mrs Wu is eaten up by guilt and the sad secret she's keeping close to her chest, Master Wong's own determination to prove to Boy that ghosts really do exist forces the script to head into an almost delirious stretch in which paper dolls strut across grass fields and characters confess all in teary, blue-lit moments. Perhaps we're never meant to know just exactly what happens at that point - is Master Wong running a complicated scam? - but it's a confusing and arguably deflating way to tie up the narrative's loose ends.
At least Ong's three leads are well worth the watch. With her sensitive performance, Ng proves that tragedy and comedy are more closely related than you'd expect: in the same scene, she can punch you in the gut with the weight of Mrs Wu's grief, even as she makes you laugh over her character's desperate antics. Lee, too, is an adept comedian who manages to find the darker emotional undercurrents in the relationship with his son. The film also marks an astonishingly assured silver-screen debut for Chan, who is adorably affecting whether he's running around with a sword or trying to puzzle out why his mother refuses to make contact with him from the afterlife.
Strictly speaking, A Fantastic Ghost Wedding isn't a great movie - it's filled with some lovely moments and its cast is great (though Wang and Kenji Fitzgerald, as Peng's friend Ryan, are pretty stilted), but Ong doesn't quite manage to make it gel into a coherent whole. Nevertheless, its core message of love and acceptance is so tender, sweet and unexpectedly brave for local mainstream cinema that it's easy to forgive the film its many flaws.
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