The best stories are universal. Regardless of the time it is set in, the place it is set in or the culture that it is set in, these stories are timeless and speak to all of us.
Writer/director Lulu Wang’s new semi-autobiographical film, The Farewell, is set in China and New York City. Billi (Awkwafina) was born in China and raised in New York City. When her beloved grandmother, known as Nai Nai, is diagnosed with cancer with only months to live, the family decides to keep it from her. Under the pretense of a fake wedding, the family comes together in China.
But Billi is troubled by the lie. She must decide if she will be the one to spill the beans or go along with the scheme.
This movie is one of the best films of 2019. Up to this point, Awkwafina has built her career on comedic roles in films such as Ocean’s Eight and Crazy Rich Asians. In this film, she plays a young woman who is dealing with an emotionally tough decision. The humor comes from the narrative, not from broad jokes or an outrageous character. In playing this toned down character, Awkwafina proves that her acting abilities go way beyond comedy.
The thing that stood out to me about TheFarewell is that anyone can relate to these characters and their story. At some point, our parents and grandparents reach that point in their lives when their health is not what it was. It is then up to the younger generations to make decisions, which are frequently never easy and rife with challenges.
One of the most common tropes of the romantic comedy genre is the objection to one half of the lead couple by their well-meaning family and/or friends. The question is, is this common narrative used wisely or is it an easy way out by the writer or writers?
In the new movie Crazy Rich Asians (based upon the book of the same name by Kevin Kwan), Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is a Chinese American college professor living and working in New York City. She has been dating Nick Young (Henry Golding) for a year when he invites her to join him at a family wedding in Singapore. Nick hasn’t exactly been forthcoming with Rachel about who his family is in the social hierarchy of Singaporean society. When they get to Singapore, Nick’s mother, Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) isn’t exactly pleased with her son’s choice of a partner.
But Rachel is not without allies. Her college roommate, Peik Lin Goh (Awkwafina) is from Singapore and has been begging Rachel to come visit for while. Rachel also becomes close friends with Nick’s cousin, Astrid Young Teo (Gemma Chan), whose life is not as perfect as it seems. Will Rachel and Nick live out their happily ever after or will his family get in the way?
While Crazy Rich Asians falls squarely within the romantic comedy genre (with the standard character tropes and narrative), it is not the same old, dry predictable romantic comedy. Aside from a cast of Asian and Asian-American actors (which is a long time coming), the movie is funny, charming, romantic and heaves much needed life into a genre that for many died a long time ago.
Heist films are nearly as old as Hollywood itself. The question, is, does the film standout within the genre or is it just too unbelievable?
Ocean’s 8 is the next chapter in the Ocean’s movie series.
Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) is the sister of Danny Ocean (George Clooney), the protagonist of the previous Ocean’s films. When she gets out of jail, she gathers a crew together to steal a necklace worth millions of dollars at the Met Gala.
The crew includes Lou (Cate Blanchett), Amita (Mindy Kaling), Tammy (Sarah Paulson), Constance (Awkwafina), Nine Ball (Rihanna) and Rose Weil (Helena Bonham-Carter). The necklace is to be worn by Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) at the Met Ball in New York City.
I loved this film. While it helps that the main cast is made up of a group of diverse female performers, it is the narrative that makes the film enjoyable. It is funny, well written, thrilling and worth a trip to the movie theater.