Alice Wu’s Saving Face is a delightfully funny tale of a girl, her girlfriend and her pregnant Chinese mother.
This is one of the best romantic comedies I’ve seen in a long time, hands down. Well-written, well-acted, nothing contrived nor cheesy – just some good laughs from a lot of great characters.
Wilhelmina (Wil) is an up-and-coming surgeon in New York City. All is going well: Her career is taking off and she meets and starts to date Vivian, an attractive dancer. But Wil is not that open about being lesbian and her pushy mother (played deliciously by Joan Chen) is constantly trying to get her hitched.
Everything changes though when Ma gets knocked up and comes to live with her. No one – not even Wil – knows who the father is. Wil’s grandparents are especially shamed and it’s got the whole community buzzing.
So now it’s Wil’s turn to find a suitable husband for Ma, all the while trying to maintain her promising career and her relationship with Vivian. But Vivian’s not cool with keeping things on the down-low and when she gets offered a job out of the country it’s do or die time for Wil.
Both secret lives of mother and daughter wonderfully come to a head at a big wedding full of confessions and surprises.
Chen is spectacular as the officious, outspoken mother. Her constant nagging of Wil masks her own need to be supported by her daughter. From her series of bad dates to her curious renting of porn, Chen gives a funny and warm portrayal of a mother living outside the box. Her performance is matched by Michelle Krusiec as the adorable and somewhat clumsy daughter.
Do I even need to mention how gorgeous all three women are in this film? Chen is definitely not overshadowed by the younger beauties.
The movie asks: From what are we saving face? Maybe it’s inevit-able to lose face in front of others in order to live the life you truly want – what’s most important is to be honest to those close to us.
In one scene, Wil runs to the airport to catch Vivian and they have a talk in the same long hallway used in the film The Wedding Banquet. One can’t help but link these two films and their call for compassion and understanding to overcome traditional barriers.
This is Chinese-American writer Wu’s feature debut as a director: Don’t miss it.