Sundance Film Festival – Official Selection
Director: Alice Wu
Starring: Joan Chen, Michelle Krusiec, Lynn
RunTime: Est 1 hr 40 mins
Released By: Columbia TriStar
Day: 27 October 2005
For 28-year old New Yorker Wilhelmina "Wil" Pang
(Michelle Krusiec), life is a juggling actbetween
a promising career as a surgeon and her responsibilities as
a dutiful daughter. Like the #7 train
she takes to visit her Chinese family on a weekly basis, Wil
is perpetually in transit between two
worlds. The expectations of the Flushing, Queens society she
is from and the desires that alienate
her from it have made Wil content to live below the surface
-- even if it means playing an inadvertent
game of charades with her widowed mother (Joan Chen) and the
old world Ma represents.
The masquerade is comic even in its pain as Wil tolerates
Ma's weekly set ups with eligible
Chinese-American boys at the Friday Chinese socials; but it
quickly becomes a farce when Ma's
mask cracks first.
night, Wil comes home to find Ma on her doorstep - pregnant.
Disgraced by the Chinese community,
and with no where else to go, Ma moves in with her daughter,
making it difficult forWil
to nurture a budding relationship with gorgeous dancer Vivian
(Lynn Chen). As her carefully compartmentalized
worlds collide, Wil is forced to find her mother a husband,
placate her girlfriend, and
choose between breaking a cycle of keeping up appearances,
or risk losing the girl she loves.
FACE is a romantic comedy about a daughter struggling to understand
her mother's heart,
which ultimately allows her to understand her own. It is the
story of unspoken loves, contemporary
and cultural taboos, and the journey of two women towards
living their lives honestly.
Asians in a Western community and presto, you have a winning
formula for a film. On one hand, the Asians can connect with
their counterparts in the story. On the other hand, the Westerners
would be more than amused to see the interesting turn in events
due to this clash in cultures. Ang Lee’s The Wedding
Banquet (1993) and Wayne Wang’s The Joy Luck Club are
two critically-acclaimed films of such nature.
Saving Face is the first feature helmed by director Alice
Wu, she has charmingly brought the story to life.
by Michelle Krusiec, who looks like a sweeter version of Zhang
Ziyi) is a Chinese-American surgeon living in Manhattan. She
is shocked when her single mother (played by Joan Chen, who
is ageing very beautifully) shows up on her doorstep pregnant.
her avoid the taboo in the Chinese community of an unmarried
pregnant woman, Wil goes all out to help her mother find her
Mr. Right. While this mother-daughter tie bonds, complication
materializes in the form of Vivian (played by Lynn Chen, who
illuminates the screen from every angle), whom Wil has a romantic
challenges the traditional values in a Chinese community,
where single mothers (to add to the controversy, a 48-year-old
one!) and lesbian relationships are not socially accepted
easily. It is a smart move then, for the director to tackle
these issues in the form of comedy.
rhythmic humour of the film keeps the audience involved throughout
its 100 minutes, and there isn’t really a dull moment.
Even if you are watching this alone, there are a few sequences
which will have you laughing out loud.
third of the film is highly energetic, with the help of an
array of colourful characters and dialogues. Although the
pace slows down after that, you will still be captivated by
the film’s two female leads.
always count on Joan Chen for a sincere performance. With
experience from films like Oliver Stone’s Heaven and
Earth (1993) and Stanley Kwan’s Red Rose White Rose
(1994), the 44-year-old Chinese American actress definitely
still got what it takes in her latest showcase.
Krusiec nicely contrasts her on-screen mother’s engaging
performance with her rendition of a confused daughter who
has so many things to take care of. This role has earned her
a surprise Taiwan Golden Horse Award Best Actress nomination,
beating strong contenders like Sammi Cheng (Everlasting Regret)
and Rene Liu (A World Without Thieves). The results will be
announced in later in November this year.
cast speaking in Mandarin most of the time, the Chinese audience
will probably enjoy this film quite a bit. This is especially
so when familiar scenes come alive on the big screen. It is
interesting to note that the most interesting exchanges of
dialogues in the movie are those during which the characters
are having food. It must be an Asian thing, that food plays
an important role in our culture.
noteworthy aspect of this film is its fine depiction of a
lesbian relationship. Michelle Krusiec and Lynn Chen’s
affection for each other come across as more sincere than
that of the lesbian couple in the recent local film Be With
Me (2005) by Eric Khoo. The emotions between the two girls
are definitely better fleshed out and heartfelt here.
not like this film because of its lack of dazzling camerawork,
cinematography and editing. Heck, even the plot is somewhat
predictable and conventional. But this film is truly a wonderful
piece of work, thanks to the combination of its sweet sense
of humour, coupled with the sincere and earnest performances
of its fine cast.
is the greatest saving grace of this movie.
very likeable film that will charm you from beginning to end)
by John Li