Saving Face (DVD)
Drama/Comedy/Chinese American/ Lesbian
In English and Chinese (w/subtitles)
When 48-year-old widow Hwei-Lan Gao (Joan Chen) informs her less-than understanding father she's pregnant, he banishes her from Flushing until she remarries or proves Immaculate Conception. With nowhere else to go, Hwei-Lan moves in with her grown daughter, Wil (Michelle Krusiec), a Manhattan doctor who doesn't want a roommate, especially since she's met Viv (Lynn Chen), her sexy young lover. So Wil does what any dutiful child with an expectant, unmarried mother on her hands would do: she proceeds to set Hwei-Lan up with every eligible bachelor in town.
Oh yeah, this is what I’m talking about. Finally, a cute, humorous film that portrays a lesbian falling in love story realistically including all the family issues around it. This was a particularly endearing film because it’s set within the Chinese American community, which includes three generations trying to live different levels of old country cultural values within a vastly different American culture.
Wil is a young surgeon who has a brilliant career ahead of her. Every week she goes to Flushing (NY), insisted by her mother, for the weekly dance, where everyone goes to hook-up, find marriageable partners for their kids, and do some gossiping. Her single mother has been trying to set her up with a good guy, but she just goes through the motions every week because she’s gay and is afraid to tell her mother.
Hwei-Lan, Will’s mother, has her own little secret. She’s pregnant, to the shock of the community and shame of her traditional father who kicks her out of their house. She’s been living there since her husband died 17 years ago and has never found another suitable partner. (By the way, Joan Chen is freaking hot in this film. She’s one of those rare women who seems to get better looking with age.) Having nowhere to go, she moves in with Wil to Wil’s dismay.
In the meantime, stressed out Wil is slowly getting seduced by Viv, the daughter of the chief of surgery and Wil’s boss. Viv is very attracted to Wil and manages to get her into her bed, eventually, since Wil is a lot more cautious. They see each other as often as possible and their feelings start growing for each other. Unfortunately, while Viv comes from a more open-minded family who accept that she’s gay, Wil is reluctant to come out to her more traditionally inclined family and this causes some friction between them.
To get her place back and have her own life, Wil starts setting her mom up with potential husbands since it’s not proper for a woman to live alone. Those scenes by the way were hilarious as Hwei-Lan goes out on date after date with all kinds of losers. However, this won’t change the fact that Wil needs to come to terms with her love for Viv and coming out to her family.
What stood out for me in this film was the warmth, love, and eventual family/community acceptance that came through. I love it when people are shown to let go of, or at least put to the side for further introspection, their biases, beliefs, cultural mores when the reality of life butts in.
Saving Face flowed so nicely showing just everyday people trying to deal with events that throw them out of their comfort zone. In this case, they all rise to the challenge without it coming across as phony for the sake of a feel good movie.
The acting is very natural and there’s a good feel for all these characters and what they’re about. The writing is clean and dialogue witty and poignant as well. The writer/director of this film, Alice Wu, is a Chinese American and also a lesbian and she did right by all groups, staying genuine and never stepping into stereotypes without sensitivity.
The love scenes between Wil and Viv are very sexy, light and naturally done. The lesbian thing was integrated nicely, meaning it wasn’t the main focus of the film but wasn’t treated as minor either. Nor did it seem to be thrown in as a focal point for comedic affect, like in Kissing Jessica Stein.
And did I mention Joan Chen? LOL Yes, I’ve been in love with her since Twin Peaks and The Last Emperor. She was amazing in this film. Everyone was.
I absolutely recommend seeing Saving Face. Not only for the lesbian aspect, but for the fun and charm of it. It’s a sweet, beautiful film all around.
Heat level: 2/3- Some light nude sex scenes between women.