Subtlety is not a strong suit in Justin Chon's movie, with striking shots, amplified music and jarring flashbacks taking precedence over story and characterizatons. Key information is denied to the viewer (e.g., purple is the color of mourning in Korean culture) and the use of 3 or 4 false endings (extra footage is shown even after the end credits roll) is a drag.
Chon covers a number of weighty themes, unfortunately often trivializing them. His heroine suffered (along with her brother) from abandonment, as their mother left them, and is clinging to her dying father as a result, refusing to give him over to hospice care as nearly everyone suggests she do. The extreme difficulties of a caregiver are illustrated, but make for black humor comic relief (the brother wheeling comatose dad in his bed through traffic repeatedly as silly music plays).
His depiction of the plight of a sex worker, as our suffering heroine is mired in prostitution working in karaoke bars that are merely fronts for sex, and her even more disturbing treatment by an egotistical sugar daddy is commendable in how her humiliation is shown to be even more debilitating to the human spirit than the sex and ultimate violence that comes with the territory.
Chon also uses two subcultures, the Korean community and Chicano community, to portray immigrants as strangers in a strange land, seemingly his principal theme in the picture. More back story would be necessary to give this set of characters three dimensions, and the subpar acting in the brother's role is a major drawback to becoming involved or invested in their fates.
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