Wedding Banquet (the)
To the degree that a person can have a satisfying life, Wai-Tung believes he does. A young, gay, Chinese man from Taiwan, he lives with his American lover Simon in a New York brownstone, and manages lofts he owns. All is well, except for his parents' letters and phone calls asking when he's going to marry a nice Chinese woman and give them a grandchild. They have no idea he's gay; he can't force himself to tell them.
Simon thinks of how to make everyone happy. A tenant, a young Chinese woman in one of their lofts, Wei-Wei, is an artist who can can't pay her rent, and plans to return to China in despair. But, she likes Wai-Tung very much: why she can't marry Wei-Wei? She'll get a green card to stay in America, and Wai-Tung will please his parents. The would-be spouses agree.
But when Wai-Tung's parents announce their plan to come from Taiwan for the wedding, everything is thrown off. As is "La Cage aux Folles," "The Wedding Banquet" is a comedy of layers of deception. But in the end, it's touching.
Director Lee works in a low-key way, not overdoing dramatic or comic scenes. And the characters seem fatalistic, resigned to the worst, as maybe they should. The parents use a matchmaker for their son, who asks for a very tall opera singer, only to find that one can be supplied.
For Wei-Wei (Chin), the pretend marriage makes sense, but is also painful: She has a crush on Wai-Tung, for whom, as an honest man, the charade is unbearable. For Simon (Lichtenstein), what begins as a joke continues painfully, too, as he hangs around the wedding, never fully explained to the others' families.
The groom's parents (Lung and Gua) are delighted, but feel something is lacking between the couple, especially as they plan to be married by a justice of the peace. But old friend of the father's, a well-to-do restaurant owner, says he will create a Chinese-style wedding banquet. Alcohol, tradition, and deception collide, but everyone in the wedding party finds happiness.
What makes the film is that the filmmakers let us get to know the characters. By the end of the film, the viewer will have come to care for them.
Ang Lee, Neil Peng, and James Schamus
Winston Chao, May Chin, Mitchell Lichtenstein, Sihung Lung, Ah-Leh Gua
Cage Aux Folles; gay man in pretend marriage
English with some subtitled Chinese Reviewer's Name:
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