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Overall Rating
3.38

Awesome: 12.5%
Worth A Look: 12.5%
Average75%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 2 user ratings


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Almost Perfect
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by Jay Seaver

"Well, at least above average."
3 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2011 BOSTON ASIAN-AMERICAN FILM FESTIVAL: It's not an insult to say that "Almost Perfect" is a decent movie that would probably make a pretty good TV series. It's more a case that Bertha Bay-sa Pan's film feels less like a crisis point than a somewhat larger example of the issues its characters deal with on a regular basis; it could be extended without much trouble. It's not a bad family drama, just not a big one.

The "almost perfect" daughter of the title is Vanessa Lee (Kelly Hu); an attractive single New Yorker in her mid-thirties, she runs the family business's philanthropic foundation, and is the one that the rest of the family leans on. That family includes recently-retired father Kai (Roger Rees); mother Sandra (Tina Chen), a much-respected professor of architecture; fashion-designer sister Charlene (Christina Chang); and younger brother Andy (Edison Chen), who is hiding out on Vanessa's couch to avoid the troubles in his marriage. An old college friend of Andy's, Dwayne Sung (Ivan Shaw), shows up at one of Vanessa's charitable events, and they quite enjoy reconnecting, even if Vanessa's needy and difficult family keeps getting in the way.

Movies like this, about the drama and comedy of family life, demand a well-rounded cast, and this one is pretty good. It's a group whose members are each a little familiar from previous parts in various ensembles, and that experience works to the movie's advantage: We get what's going on with each character quickly, without a lot of exposition, and they can move in and out of the background without seeming to be trying to claim screen time or going the other way and just feeling like place-holder characters. Tina Chen is especially good; while all of Vanessa's family members are designed to be somewhat unreasonable and demanding, Chen is the one that takes the best advantage of the room they're given to make them somewhat sympathetic individuals as well.

A little more is needed from Kelly Hu, and while she doesn't give a bad performance, she doesn't do quite enough to separate herself from the group. Hu matches up well with everybody else in the cast, and has immediate chemistry with Ivan Shaw. She's at her best when called upon to be funny; she can both sell a joke and show us that Vanessa recognizes how silly a situation is. She's passable when it's time to be serious, with the result being that Vanessa is pleasant and easy for the audience to get behind, but not quite magnetic enough to justify the movie being about her.

Maybe Bertha Bay-sa Pan could have done a little bit more to help her out, either as writer or director. Like the cast, she does a good job of juggling the various characters' individual stories, inserting just enough detail that nobody seems entirely defined by how he or she relates to Vanessa even if that's what we see. The Lees feel like a real family, with every member influencing the rest at all times, even if that influence is spelled out, and both their loyalties and conflicts have the ring of truth. It would be nice if the story was perhaps a little less familiar - "family obligations make it hard to commit to personal happiness/romance" has kind of been done a few times - or if Pan had attacked it a little more forcefully. Much of the time, the situation feels like just the most recent entry in a pattern, rather than the time that's going to push things to a climax (be it comedic or cathartic).

Not every movie needs to be life and death, and "Almost Perfect" does all right with its small stakes. It's an enjoyable little indie, maybe worth checking out if it hits a nearby festival.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=23290&reviewer=371
originally posted: 12/10/11 13:29:33
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User Comments

3/29/12 Juanita Takara It's a movie we can relate to. 5 stars
12/21/11 green O ill look in to it 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  N/A
  DVD: 22-Oct-2013

UK
  N/A

Australia
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Directed by
  Bertha Bay-Sa Pan

Written by
  Bertha Bay-Sa Pan

Cast
  Kelly Hu
  Ivan Shaw
  Tina Chen
  Roger Rees
  Christina Chang
  Edison Chen



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