Film explores Chinese-American culture clash, features cute lesbians

By |2018-01-16T00:16:45-05:00June 23rd, 2005|Entertainment|

Wilhelmina Pang (Michelle Krusiec) is stressed out. Not only is she an overworked med student in the middle of her surgical residency, but she’s also a lesbian in a brand new relationship. And her new girlfriend just happens to be her boss’s daughter. Oh, and her pregnant mother (Joan Chen), who doesn’t know about Wilhelmina’s girlfriend, just moved in with her.
But her girlfriend, Vivian (Lunn Chen), is cute. Super cute. As is Wilhelmina, who goes by Wil. Which, by God, might be enough to carry this movie all by itself. If you’ve ever felt “Joy Luck Club” was in serious need of some lesbian action, yet still pretty much liked “Joy Luck Club,” then stop reading this review and go see “Saving Face.”
If it takes more than a couple of pretty faces to get your butt in a theatre seat, have no fear.
Writer and director Alice Wu has created a funny and touching film that explores the cultural clashes between several generations of Chinese Americans living in New York City. “Saving Face” isn’t all about cute lesbians. Equally integral to the story is Wil’s widowed mother, who finds herself pregnant and cast out of her parents’ house at age 48. “She can throw her face away,” her father says as he’s kicking her out for shaming the family, “but it still comes back to me.”
She won’t spill on who the father is and winds up, literally, on Wil’s doorstep. Wil takes her in, as a good Chinese daughter must, and mother and daughter live out a somewhat strained co-existence in Wil’s one bedroom apartment, the mother living vicariously through soap operas.
Meanwhile, Wil’s new girlfriend Vivian is getting impatient with Wil’s “Cloak and Dagger”-style courtship. In fact, tension over Wil’s unwillingness to be out is felt early on in the relationship. “I’m starting to feel like we’re having an illicit affair,” Vivian tells her. However, considering that both women are keeping their relationship secret from Vivian’s father, it does seem a little unfair that Wil should have to take all the blame.
Still, Wil is anxious and seems uncomfortable in her skin, often fumbling in her attempt to balance her work, relationship, and home life as if they could exist separately. Unfortunately, the balancing act can’t last forever, and soon Wil is left with no choice but to choose between her separate lives or find a way to make them work together.
The same, it turns out, goes for her mother, who learns after 48 years that, even as a good Chinese daughter, she can’t save her father’s face and still keep her own.
The film’s “feel good” ending feels a little forced, but between the cute lesbians and the deft exploration of the clash between old country and new, “Saving Face” saves itself from becoming lost in the coming out story/romantic comedy crowd.

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