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Overall Rating
3.96

Awesome: 33.33%
Worth A Look42.11%
Just Average: 12.28%
Pretty Crappy: 12.28%
Sucks: 0%

5 reviews, 27 user ratings


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Saving Face
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by EricDSnider

"Coming out, with egg roll."
4 stars

Alice Wu's semi-autobiographical "Saving Face" is only a slight variation on a theme we've seen much of in recent films, that of the gay person who comes out of the closet in a strict conservative environment. We've seen Mormon ("Latter Days"), Jewish ("Trembling Before G-d") and old-world traditional ("Mambo Italiano"), and now here is Chinese.

But Wu knows her story is not unique, thank goodness, and manages to give it enough charming humor to make it fresh and enjoyable. If the assortment of wacky ethnic relatives feels a little too "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," and if there is a clichéd "tell me you love me" moment in an airport -- well, you can overlook that sort of contrivance. The movie wins you over with warmth and honesty.

Wilhelmina (Michelle Krusiec), Wil for short, is an up-and-coming Manhattan surgeon who, unbeknownst to almost everyone, is a lesbian. Her traditional Chinese family -- so traditional that they speak to her in Mandarin even when she answers them in English -- calls her back to Flushing for community singles dances every Friday night. This "dip in the Chinese gene pool," as Wil puts it, is useless for her but harmless enough. She's not interested in meeting any of the men on parade there, but it's a chance to see her college-professor grandfather (Jin Wang), progressive grandmother (Guang Lan Koh) and their daughter, Wil's own widowed, youthful mother (Joan Chen).

At one of these dances, she runs into Vivian (Lynn Chen), a childhood acquaintance she doesn't remember who is now a beautiful professional dancer and, like Wil, a lesbian. Vivian is actually "out," though, and her family is supportive. Wil cannot imagine such a thing from her relatives, and so she keeps her burgeoning relationship with Vivian tightly under wraps.

This is hard to do, considering Wil's mother has moved in with her. For you see, Ma has gotten pregnant. Refusing to name the father or to offer any other explanation, she has been banished from Flushing by her traditionalist father and exiled to Manhattan. Wil and her mother both have secret romances now. And both struggle over whether to follow their hearts or to honor their parents' wishes.

It's that parallel storyline that gives "Saving Face" some of its extra oomph. Coming-out stories are common enough, but seldom do the figures doing the coming out have mothers who are pregnant under mysterious circumstances. Mom's story is sweet in its own right, too, perfectly played by the winsome Joan Chen, as she half-heartedly tries to find a husband in order to please her father.

Wu, a first-time filmmaker, won an award from the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment for her screenplay, which led to the film being produced. The competition must not have been fierce; the screenplay is above-average but by no means remarkable. It is the performances -- Krusiec's vulnerable, intelligent Wil; Lynn Chen's headstrong Vivian; and especially Joan Chen in that supporting role -- that distinguish it from many of the other coming-out comedies. Rather than beating us over the head with its message, it charms us into seeing its point of view on our own, unforced.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10441&reviewer=247
originally posted: 07/06/05 03:53:07
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 San Francisco Asian-American Film Festival. For more in the 2005 San Francisco Asian-American Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2005 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

3/06/16 Yahong Chi Oooooooh boy yeah Wil is definitely speaking Mandarin, not Cantonese, LOL. 5 stars
2/12/10 anonymously really love it..it's the fact its happening now 5 stars
7/19/08 amrita wonderful , lovely movie. absolutely loved it. 5 stars
4/24/08 Smooth Johnny S A Chinese father would definately yell at his 40-yo daughter like that 3.5*s 3 stars
9/14/06 Sara Sioux Wonderful and funny 4 stars
5/09/06 wayne It is funny. 4 stars
3/06/06 Ji-ann Blanca N. Perez It's a feel good movie that shuns diversity and taboo 5 stars
11/14/05 illusionz i think this is a good movie .. i think peijin chen is too biased to give such comments 5 stars
10/30/05 Jeff Chen Pretty.... Recommended 5 stars
8/05/05 Greg Ursic Light fluff that delivered a few smiles. Sadly not enough. 2 stars
7/31/05 john wow, funny, tender, right on stuff 5 stars
7/01/05 Amy Chang Excellent. Highly recommended. 5 stars
6/09/05 q IT FRIGGIN' ROCKS. and btw, c. parry, big fat greek wedding wasn't the first of its kind! 5 stars
5/30/05 Amy See it! Great fun. Joy, some weepy moments, fab stuff. 4 stars
5/30/05 Liv It has many relatable and funny moments. 4 stars
5/27/05 Helen Lots of sweet, amusing moments. Two thumbs up! 5 stars
5/25/05 David I am neither gay, female nor Chinese yet I loved it! Universal appeal! 5 stars
5/14/05 Tina very funny - leaves you with a good feeling 5 stars
5/08/05 Ellen Great movie 5 stars
5/07/05 Alex It was delightful and charming. The leads did a superb job conveying the film's sentiments. 5 stars
4/14/05 Yaya Alice speaks my mind... 5 stars
3/01/05 Judy Excellent ensemble, great story. I really liked it. 5 stars
1/28/05 Wendy Lee Fantastic! Lynn Chen is a new young actor to keep an eye on... 5 stars
1/27/05 Anna wonderful performances by the 3 leads 5 stars
1/23/05 Polak Really surprisingly funny. Worth buying a ticket for. 4 stars
12/06/04 Matthew Pope Great overall story with really poignant moments. Comedic tone is very sweet. 5 stars
10/15/04 Tracy Saw it at TIFF and it was excellent! 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  27-May-2005 (R)
  DVD: 18-Oct-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  04-Aug-2005


Directed by
  Alice Wu

Written by
  Alice Wu

Cast
  Joan Chen
  Lynn Chen
  Ato Essandoh
  Jessica Hecht
  Michelle Krusiec
  Brittany Perrineau



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