Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Day 357 - The Wedding Banquet

The Wedding Banquet (1993) directed by Ang Lee

Have you ever told a lie that simply got out of hand? Wai Tung has lived his whole life as a lie, keeping the fact he's gay a secret from his old fashioned parents. This has served as a constant nuisance in his life as they keep pestering him about marriage and grandchildren. But they live in Taiwan and he lives in America so he hasn't felt the need to come out of the closet to them. After his parents take things one step further by setting him up with a woman, Wai Tung's boyfriend Simon comes up with an ingenious plan for Wai Tung to marry their friend Wei-Wei who needs a green card. She gets to stay in America while Wai Tung can finally get his parents off his back. That way everyone is happy. That is until the parents inform them that they will be coming to New York for the wedding. And the lies keep on building up until you know they will eventually tip over. The Wedding Banquet is a familiar comedy of errors and misinformation that could be so easily be made into farcical slapstick, but thankfully under Ang Lee's watchful direction and tender care, it becomes a surprisingly moving family comedic drama.

What makes this film so good is that it tackles important social and family issues of the pressures of being gay and pleasing one's parents while not taking itself too seriously either. There is a delicate balance between its light hearted comedic elements and its serious drama. The key to the film is in having characters that we can care about. We can sense the pressure in Wai Tung's life as he desperately doesn't want to disappoint his parents. There is Simon, the ever thoughtful and considerate boyfriend who suggests this whole farce in the first place. It is only inevitable of course that he will feel left out as he plays the role of "just a friend" while Wai Tung's parents are around. The parents themselves would be easy to stereotype as old fashioned folk who simply don't get it, and in many ways they are for the purposes of the film, but they are also surprisingly rich in character as well. Perhaps the most interesting character of all is Wei-Wei. The marriage benefits her because she gets a green card but her feelings are hardly considered. She likes Wai Tung and on some level wishes she really were married to him. By the end of the film, I grew to care for all the characters and was surprised by how moved I was by such a seemingly light hearted comedy.

Grade: A-

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