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Overall Rating
3.96

Awesome: 33.33%
Worth A Look42.11%
Average: 12.28%
Pretty Bad: 12.28%
Total Crap: 0%

5 reviews, 27 user ratings


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Saving Face
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by Chris Parry

"AKA, My Big Fat Asian Lesbian Wedding"
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2005 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: If Joan Chen has fallen off your radar over the last fifteen years because she’s no longer on the covers of fashion mags and mincing about with Rutger Hauer in post-apocalyptic deathworlds, prepare to be surprised. And if the mention of Will Smith in the opening credits of a movie generally has you about as excited as the line “guest-starring Rob Schneider”, prepare to be surprised even more. Saving Face, a flick that follows a concept about as tired in this day and age as any you’re likely to encounter – the much copied Big Fat Greek Wedding model – yet manages to come across as updated, often hilarious, much sweeter and a lot more enjoyable than the original.

Fear not, Will Smith and Joan Chen aren’t doing the ‘Jungle Fever’ thing – in fact, Smith’s only involvement here is as producer, while Chen steps away from the romantic lead role to play the mom of the affair. Yes, we’re breaking stereotypes, people, in more ways than one, for not only does Saving Face explore the dilemma of Asian-American children growing up with western values while their families are anchored in the days of the Revolution, but it also throws in the additional wrench of those children coming to terms with their evolving sexuality.

Yes, that’s right – it’s a Gaysian-American film!

Wil is a young doctor, in fact she’s the young doctor, a woman destined for grand things if she can keep her mind on her job and close off the rest of her life for long enough. Her mother (Joan Chen) drags her off to regular ‘Planet China’ socials, where the intent is for parents to match up their single children. But while the old folks play to the old school rules, the Americanized youngsters are merely going through the motions, keeping their parents from freaking out on them by turning up, dancing a few times, and going back to their jobs on Wall Street.

Enter Vivian (Lynn Chen), another victim of the matchmaking social scene and an up’n’coming dancer with the New York Ballet. There’s an instant attraction between the two, though Wil is a little too straight-laced to let on that she feels the same way… for a while. But what overshadows this growing tempest in a B-cup is that Wil’s mother, at the tender age of 48, is pregnant. And nobody knows who the father is. And she’s not talking. And her dad is about to go nuclear. And Wil isn’t far behind, especially when her mother shows up on her doorstep to move in for a while.

Not rattling your rafters yet? Well get over it, people, because Saving Face, though it suffers from a fairly yawnworthy title, is an honest-to-God joy to watch. Chen is not only radiant, but she’s also damn funny, and the two younger actresses that she’s supporting seem to be more than happy to play off her goofiness. With a cast of dozens of background characters, each funnier than the next, and barely a few minutes passing without at least one solid giggle moment, the comparisons with the earlier Greek-based extravaganza are inevitable, if probably unwanted. But while My Big Fat Greek Wedding took the grandmother-friendly route in ensuring every piece of story was smoothed off to a nice sugary sheen, Saving Face writer/director Alice Wu takes a few more chances and manages to pull off a film that will appeal not just to the Golden Girls in the audience, and not only the Asian-American crowd, and not only the gay-friendly folks, but anyone in between as well.

A surprising success, and one well worth your time, keep an eye out for Saving Face in a theater near you.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=10441&reviewer=1
originally posted: 01/25/05 07:12:02
[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
2/13/10 anonymously really love it..it's the fact its happening now 5 stars
7/20/08 amrita wonderful , lovely movie. absolutely loved it. 5 stars
4/25/08 Smooth Johnny S A Chinese father would definately yell at his 40-yo daughter like that 3.5*s 3 stars
9/15/06 Sara Sioux Wonderful and funny 4 stars
5/10/06 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
11/15/05 illusionz i think this is a good movie .. i think peijin chen is too biased to give such comments 5 stars
10/31/05 Jeff Chen Pretty.... Recommended 5 stars
8/06/05 Greg Ursic Light fluff that delivered a few smiles. Sadly not enough. 2 stars
8/01/05 john wow, funny, tender, right on stuff 5 stars
7/02/05 Amy Chang Excellent. Highly recommended. 5 stars
6/10/05 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
5/28/05 Helen Lots of sweet, amusing moments. Two thumbs up! 5 stars
5/26/05 David I am neither gay, female nor Chinese yet I loved it! Universal appeal! 5 stars
5/15/05 Tina very funny - leaves you with a good feeling 5 stars
5/09/05 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
4/15/05 Yaya Alice speaks my mind... 5 stars
3/02/05 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
1/28/05 Anna wonderful performances by the 3 leads 5 stars
1/24/05 Polak Really surprisingly funny. Worth buying a ticket for. 4 stars
12/07/04 Matthew Pope Great overall story with really poignant moments. Comedic tone is very sweet. 5 stars
10/16/04 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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