Film Review: THE FAREWELL (USA 2019) ***

The Farewell Poster
Trailer

A Chinese family discovers their grandmother has only a short while left to live and decide to keep her in the dark, scheduling a wedding to gather before she dies.

Director:

Lulu Wang

Writer:

Lulu Wang

Awkwafina (last seen in CRAZY RICH ASIANS) gets a starring role as Billi, a Chinese American who learns that her beloved grandmother aka Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen) still living in China has three months to live after being diagnosed with cancer.  The family decide not to tell Nai Nai of her illness. Instead the family organize a wedding so that the entire family will travel back to China to spend time with her before she passes away.  Hence the film title THE FAREWELL. Billi was not invited to the wedding/farewell as the family fear that she cannot hide her feelings but she shows up in China unannounced from New York City.

The titles cleverly state at the start of the film; “Based on an actual lie.”  THE FAREWELL starts off a little humorously as director Wang introduces the somewhat dysfunctional family who aim to do good.  The idea is that the family takes on the emotional burden off the grandmother if she does not know.  Half way through the movie, it will hit (as it did me) whether what transpires is legal. i.e. will the doctors allow that illness be kept for the patient as requested by the family.  The answer is supplied right outwards – a good thing – in the middle of the movie.  It is not allowed in America but is allowed in China.

Director Wang is more serious that light in her treatment of the material.  Though there are always laughs on the horizon of every scene, the sombre mood is also pressing.  Despite the simple story which is suspense less, Wang keeps her film running at a good pace.  It is more the family interaction at play than the knowledge of whether Nai Nai will discover the truth at the end.  At the end of the matter, whether Nai Nai finds out or who tells her is immaterial to the plot.

Wang captures the behavioural  mores typical Chinese family.  Important are the big meals,  the obsessive ‘fussy’ care over the young and old, the need to keep a stiff upper lip among others.  Other issues the are also important include the relationship between mother and daughter-in-law.  Billi’s mother complains that Nai Nai was always boss in the home when she married her son, which implies the probable reason they left China for America.

The farewell is not the perfect drama as the film contains many glaring flaws including the tacked on happy ending.  Still THE FAREWELL is a sincere drama aided by a solid dramatic performance by Awkwafina who previously only has been seen in comedic roles.  The film is entertaining and sheds light on the difference of cultures, in a good way, and also of respect and the difficulty a family to get along. There is nothing forced in the film, and the story unfolds smoothly that should leave the audience not only satisfied but with a  warm fuzzy feeling.

Chinese American films have always done well and have been well made like this one (and with a strong feminine protagonist too), the recent Netflix original, ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE and of course, CRAZY RICH ASIANS.  There is a large target audience of North American Chinese and hopefully, there will be more films to cater towards this group.

Trailer:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RofpAjqwMa8

Advertisements

Film Review: THE FAREWELL (USA 2019) ***

The Farewell Poster
Trailer

A Chinese family discovers their grandmother has only a short while left to live and decide to keep her in the dark, scheduling a wedding to gather before she dies.

Director:

Lulu Wang

Writer:

Lulu Wang

Awkwafina (last seen in CRAZY RICH ASIANS) gets a starring role as Billi, a Chinese American who learns that her beloved grandmother aka Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen) still living in China has three months to live after being diagnosed with cancer.  The family decide not to tell Nai Nai of her illness. Instead the family organize a wedding so that the entire family will travel back to China to spend time with her before she passes away.  Hence the film title THE FAREWELL. Billi was not invited to the wedding/farewell as the family fear that she cannot hide her feelings but she shows up in China unannounced from New York City.

The titles cleverly state at the start of the film; “Based on an actual lie.”  THE FAREWELL starts off a little humorously as director Wang introduces the somewhat dysfunctional family who aim to do good.  The idea is that the family takes on the emotional burden off the grandmother if she does not know.  Half way through the movie, it will hit (as it did me) whether what transpires is legal. i.e. will the doctors allow that illness be kept for the patient as requested by the family.  The answer is supplied right outwards – a good thing – in the middle of the movie.  It is not allowed in America but is allowed in China.

Director Wang is more serious that light in her treatment of the material.  Though there are always laughs on the horizon of every scene, the sombre mood is also pressing.  Despite the simple story which is suspense less, Wang keeps her film running at a good pace.  It is more the family interaction at play than the knowledge of whether Nai Nai will discover the truth at the end.  At the end of the matter, whether Nai Nai finds out or who tells her is immaterial to the plot.

Wang captures the behavioural  mores typical Chinese family.  Important are the big meals,  the obsessive ‘fussy’ care over the young and old, the need to keep a stiff upper lip among others.  Other issues the are also important include the relationship between mother and daughter-in-law.  Billi’s mother complains that Nai Nai was always boss in the home when she married her son, which implies the probable reason they left China for America.

The farewell is not the perfect drama as the film contains many glaring flaws including the tacked on happy ending.  Still THE FAREWELL is a sincere drama aided by a solid dramatic performance by Awkwafina who previously only has been seen in comedic roles.  The film is entertaining and sheds light on the difference of cultures, in a good way, and also of respect and the difficulty a family to get along. There is nothing forced in the film, and the story unfolds smoothly that should leave the audience not only satisfied but with a  warm fuzzy feeling.

Chinese American films have always done well and have been well made like this one (and with a strong feminine protagonist too), the recent Netflix original, ALWAYS BE MY MAYBE and of course, CRAZY RICH ASIANS.  There is a large target audience of North American Chinese and hopefully, there will be more films to cater towards this group.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8iDwb12RdE

Film Review: BAD RAP (USA 2017) ***

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

bad_rapFour Asian-American rappers run into tough obstacles as they try to make it big in Hip Hop, a genre rooted in black culture.

Director: Salima Koroma
Stars: Awkwafina, David Lee, Richard Lee

Review by Gilbert Seah

 Asian hip-hop is what director Salima Koroma’s odd but occasionally insightful documentary is all about. In this review, hip-hop music and rap music is considered to be the same, as is considered so by the majority.

Rap has got quite the bad rap so far. Of all the music out there, Rap is known for its use of foul language, use of images of violence, sex and guns. It is everything parents do not want their children to listen to. And with reason. Rappers talk shit half the time with the word shit coming out in almost every few sentences. If the word shit or other vulgar four letter words are not heard, the word ‘like’ is used. Poor grammar and mis-spelling is common. The subjects in this film are not like the subjects of other documentaries like CITIZENFOUR where the subjects are often people (Edward Snowden in this case) who have changed the world for good. So, one has to hand it to director Koroma for capturing the energy of these young Asian rappers and creating a film that is an absorbing watch.

The film follows the origin of hip-hop. Hip-hop culture has transcended many racial and cultural boundaries after its founding in the ’70s by African-American and Latino youth in the South Bronx. Since then, rappers have emerged as legitimate pop culture stars around the world and hip-hop’s global movement has become increasingly more diverse. Yet the face of rap in America remains primarily black, brown, and white. This film looks at Asian rappers.

BAD RAP follows the lives and careers of four Asian-American rappers trying to break into a world that often treats them as outsiders. Energetic too, are the dynamic live performance footage and revealing interviews.
The four rappers on display are Dumbfounded, Awkwafina (a female), Rekstozzy and Lyricks.

Koroma shows a side of the rapper seldom seen. Lyricks is revealed as a filial son, helping out in his parents very hot steam cleaning factory. He acknowledges his parents who work very hard for him. And Rick goes to church. His mother on interview, talking about her son forms the film’s most amusing segment.

The film’s dose of brilliance comes when the video of each of the 4 rappers are played to 4 different promoters to judge their reactions. It is here that the audience sees more to rap – as the experts voice their opinions on each song and performer.

Also partly in view for a shooter span is the Chinese rapper Jin the MC. Jin is the most charismatic of the Asian rappers on display and one wonders why Koroma did not give him more screen time. His video “Learn Chinese”, a big hit is funny and unforgettable.

Koroma’s film concludes neatly with a look at the 4 rappers 2 years after their interviews – showing where each of them are, and with them talking about how they have grown.

Will BAD RAP will turn the most skeptical critics into believers?
BAD RAP is available on VOD on all major platforms May 23rd. Warning: Lots of could language and graphic content!

TRAILER: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ROfSpDfa70

Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
Great way to get your story out: http://www.wildsound.ca/logline.html

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:http://www.wildsound.ca

Watch recent Writing Festival Videos. At least 15 winning videos a month:http://www.wildsoundfestival.com