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Worth A Look: 36.84%
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1 review, 13 user ratings

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Red Doors
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by Jay Seaver

"Pleasant enough family film."
4 stars

It's not hard to like the Wongs; after all, unlike a lot of subjects of family dramas, they seem to like each other. They don't raise their voices, and they don't go to the other extreme and speak in clipped, icy tones. What you see is more or less what you get with them, and while that doesn't make for a big, splashy movie, it does make them pleasant company.

The parents, Ed and May-Li, have been married for thirty years and have three beautiful daughters. Toward the beginning of the film, Ed is being hit with two parties that mainly serve to make him feel old and used up - a retirement party, and another one for his sixtieth birthday. His hearing is starting to go, too, and that's making him feel old and worn-out enough to start to consider suicide, although he always seems to get interrupted. It's a crisis many must feel as they get older - the kids are ready to be on their own, you're not needed at work, and your body is failing in telling ways - and Tzi Ma captures it perfectly. He makes Ed depressed, though not despairing, grappling with the question of what, if anything, to do with his life going forward. Ma is a familiar face, the type of character actor able to boost an ensemble without overpowering it. He's got relatively few lines, but never fails to make an impression. Freda Foh Shen is chattier as May-Li. She's the only member of the cast with a traditionally asian name or a notable accent, and she's the one who represents the voice of tradition, nagging that all the white at a wedding will make it look like a funeral. She doesn't play May-Li as backwards or especially wise for all that, though; she's just a mom, constantly fretting about her husband and daughters.

The wedding May-Li is worrying about is that of oldest daughter Samantha (Jacqueline Kim). Sam recently turned thirty, and she's finding herself looking back more than forward herself: The wedding is mainly in the hands of the groom-to-be (Jayce Bartok), and it's a wonder they've got time to plan it, considering their scheduled their lives are with long hours. Oh, and she just saw an old boyfriend (Rossif Sutherland) playing guitar in a bar. Jacqueline Kim gives a performance that in many ways mirror's Ma's, even if her worries are more about wrong decisions already made than the future. She talks more, but it's the moments when she's caught speechless when she says the most. Bartok and Sutherland play opposing ends of the spectrum, with Bartok's Mark a blond, not quite icy but not quite warm presence and Sutherland's Alex almost too touchy-feely as Alex, the high-school boyfriend who now teaches music in the same school.

Meanwhile, middle sister Julie (Elaine Kao) is nowhere near a wedding, having just finished yet another pleasant date with an asian doctor, likely set up by her parents, that was clearly not going anywhere. Someone special is about to enter her life - Mia Scarlett (Mia Riverton), an actress who has come to the hospital where Julie's an intern to brush up for a role as a doctor. What's fun about Julie's story is the way that Ms. Kao opts to play Julie as more relieved than ashamed by their attraction. We're not given a lot of background on Julie's dating history, but the implication seems to be that she's relieved to be feeling something. Riverton plays her TV-star character as funny and outgoing but maybe not quite as comfortable in her own skin as Julie; she's got a fairly blank feel to her when we first meet her and slips into another persona when she and Julie are ambushed by a reporter coming upon leaving their tango class.

All three sisters dance, but it's Katie (Kathy Shao-Lin Lee) who is currently the most active with it; she's got a performance with the school's hip-hop dance club in a couple weeks if she doesn't get expelled first. She and her neighbor Simon (Sebastian Stan) have a dipping-pigtails-in-inkwells thing going on, pranking each other back and forth and providing much of the film's comic relief. While I imagine nepotism played no small part in Lee's casting (older sister Georgia wrote, directed, and produced), I'd like to see her in more. She's able to work the condescending stare (the type that often gets a teen character described as "sullen") for deadpan comedy without coming across as a snotty little brat or surprising us when she does break out the smile.

Casting her sister makes some things a little easier for Georgia Lee in that home movies of Kathy can be easily plundered when need be (I suspect Georgia Lee's own were used for Samantha). That's the sort of thing that's enormously helpful in making an independent film; Lee and company also do a good job integrating locations they're comfortable in seeming terribly limited to them. Lee's good at having her characters avoid histrionics without being dull, and I appreciate that; it seems more like how real families behave. She does a good job of juggling the characters, telling a complete story with all of them while keeping the running time at just an hour and a half.

As I said, "Red Doors" isn't a visceral experience, but it's a well-made film that will be a good calling card for some fairly talented people.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12064&reviewer=371
originally posted: 01/19/07 17:38:31
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Tribeca Film Festival For more in the 2005 Tribeca Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 CineVegas Film Festival For more in the 2005 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/10/06 Ed Lee Refreshing and heart warming 5 stars
9/06/06 AsAmBrother It'll make you laught and make you cry. 5 stars
10/11/05 JaeSong Saw it at Pusan Film Festival and loved it! 5 stars
9/21/05 Remy Very touching 5 stars
9/16/05 FL Huang tried hard, but failed in execution 2 stars
6/19/05 LCL Saw it at Cinevegas. Funny and for some strange reason touched me. 4 stars
6/09/05 ec very entertaining. wonderfully done. 5 stars
6/08/05 Daniel Evan Great film, no wonder it won Tribeca! 5 stars
6/08/05 TS Wang Funny and strangely moving. 5 stars
6/08/05 JCT laugh out loud funny! unexpectedly so. 5 stars
5/12/05 Bella Morand moving and very funny 5 stars
4/30/05 Katherine Very touching film that stays with you even when you've left the theater. 5 stars
4/26/05 Saw it at Tribeca Film Festival Had hopes but sadly disappointed. Some characters lacked development. 3 stars
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  08-Sep-2006 (R)
  DVD: 30-Jan-2007



Directed by
  Georgia Lee

Written by
  Georgia Lee

  Tzi Ma
  Jacqueline Kim
  Elaine Kao
  Freda Foh Shen
  Kathy Shao-Lin Lee
  Mia Riverton
  Jayce Bartok

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