Movie Review: “The Wedding Banquet”


Director Ang Lee’s films are very impressive- both in his native Mandarin Chinese and English- including Eat Drink Man Woman, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Sense and Sensibility, and Brokeback Mountain.  He has an eye for detail and subtlety.  The conflict between desire and duty is something he exlpores often.  Yet he struggled for 15 years to get his vision out to the public, because he wouldn’t compromise to meet someone else’s standards.  (He was a stay-at-home dad for many years while his wife earned a living.)  If the soft-spoken director had compromised, we wouldn’t have a gem like The Wedding Banquet, Lee’s second film (released in 1993).



Love, lies, food, family- FUN!!!

The Wedding Banquet, which Lee co-wrote, is a film infused with culture, humor, sensitivity… I could go on and on!  You will laugh, cry, and be (pleasantly) surprised as you watch this comedy.  This film (in Mandarin and English) challenges viewers’ expectations and shatters stereotypes we may have of the Chinese community, gay men, and “traditional” parents.  The main character, Wai Tung, is a well-off, buttoned-down Chinese immigrant businessman who lives in a comfy brownstone with his sweet/funny white American partner Simon, a physical therapist in NYC.   His traditional Chinese parents, who live in Taiwan, are busily looking for a nice, educated girl for him to marry.  Wai Tung wants to help out one of his tenants who has been living for 2 years in a (not so functional) loft in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (before that area became hipster and pricy).  Wei Wei is a painter, independent-spirited- truly a starving artist.  Simon suggests that Wai Tung marry Wei Wei to help her get a green card and make his parents happy.  What could go wrong? 


For one thing, the petite beauty, Wei Wei, has a big crush on Wai Tung.  And Wai Tung’s enthusiastic parents, who unexpectedly come to visit, want to follow wedding customs of their homeland.  They are very disappointed by the impersonal city hall ceremony.  (Their reactions are similar to that of Ang Lee’s parents, he explains in an interview.)  Out of the blue, an old army friend of Wai Tung’s father (and owner of a big restaurant) insists on throwing a wedding banquet.  But it’s all pretend, right?


Father, whose health is declining, wants a grandson to carry on the family name.  Mother is overjoyed to finally have a “daughter” who can take care of her son when they are gone.  Wai Tung is torn between his established life and one envisioned by the parents he respects and loves deeply.  Wei Wei, seeing the kindness and generosity of her new in-laws, begins to feel guilty.  Even the bubbly, accommodating Simon grows tired of pretending after a while.  How will this mess be settled?  Go find out ASAP! 


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