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The Farewell

08 Sep

The Farewell— written and directed by LuLu Wang. Dramedy. 1 hour 40 minute Color 2019.
★★★★★
The Story: a clan gather to see the family matriarch who, unknown to her, has but three months to live—but decorum forbids them to tell her this.
~
If you find merit in The Joy Luck Club (and I do), you will find the same merit in The Farewell. For me that merit is to be carried inside of a large Chinese family into whose midst I would not ordinarily be invited and even if I were could not experience it up and down, inside out, like this.

Its drama lies with the American tendency to tell the truth no-matter-what in emergency-conflict with Chinese reticence. People from all over come to the matriarch’s home on the pretense of attending a family wedding, but actually to see the mother, grandmother and great grandmother of them all for a last farewell which they shall never allow themselves to utter.

The American point of view is embodied by a Chinese/American woman in her 20s, at loose ends, unsuccessful in her career, without a beau, with a poor figure, with a face distended with ire, and a resolve to blurt out the worst.

The actress who plays her makes her such a disagreeable person to be with, one wonders what on earth keeps one watching her, until one figures out, quite late in the film, it is the task of wondering why one watches her that keeps one doing so.

This is a tribute to the actress Awkafina’s sticking to her guns and sending out no appeals of charm nor bids for pity. Her resoluteness of performance makes the story happen not only on the screen but in the bodies of the audience.

Still, why doesn’t someone in that family tell the old lady the truth?

The conflict is made complex not just by the generation gap and nationality gap of family members, but by the seductions of common language, tradition, superstition, parental authority, family gatherings, and by the lure of all that incomparable food.

I watch this film made happily at ease by the perfection of the casting and the simple truth of the acting of everyone. The film is essentially comic, with death waiting at its core, that is to say the stakes are high.

I had a great time watching the opening marriage scene of The Godfather Part I, and I love a movie with lots of types bouncing off one another, such as the Rules Of The Game and You Can’t Take It With You. These sorts of films require a director to invigorate the crowds. It has one in LuLu Wang. Her film direction is rich, varied, impeccable.

She takes me into a world I wouldn’t belong and makes me feel comfortable there, by the simple strategy of showing me everything that is uncomfortable in it, and therefore humorous about it.

I bow.

 
 
 
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