Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
Original title: Xi Yan
Taiwan/USA, 1993. Ang Lee Productions, Central Motion Pictures, Good Machine. Screenplay by Ang Lee, Neil Peng, James Schamus. Cinematography by Lin Jong. Produced by Ted Hope, Ang Lee, James Schamus. Music by Mader. Production Design by Steve Rosenzweig. Costume Design by Michael Clancy. Film Editing by Tim Squyres. Academy Awards 1993. Golden Globe Awards 1993. Independent Spirit Awards 1993.
Ang Lee’s first international hit is this sweet update of La Cage Aux Folles. New York-based landlord Wai-Tung (Winston Chao) decides to help struggling tenant Wei-Wei by marrying her so she can get her Green Card. He figures that telling his parents about his impending nuptials will also get them to stop trying to set him up with mail-order brides from Taiwan; things get dicey when they announce that they themselves are coming from Taipei to visit and throw the couple a proper wedding. This sounds like it shouldn’t be too difficult except for one snag: Wai-Tung is living with and happily in love with Simon (Mitchell Lichtenstein) and his parents have no idea that he is gay. This is an Ang Lee film, so what follows is not a collection of silly antics involving mishaps and slamming doors but a thought-provoking and delightful investigation of the meaning of love and family. Even the film’s corniest moments can’t be ruined by such wonderful personalities, in the case of Chao a former flight attendant who had never acted before but has an appeal too strong to be undone by his obvious lack of experience. Ya-Lei Kuei is outstanding as the protagonist’s mother, vital and vibrant in moments both exhilarating and tragic, while the central sequence involving their wedding feast is brimming over with vitality and humour.