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Saving Face

Sat 28 May 2005 In: Movies

Dir: Alice Wu USA, 2005, 35mm, 91mins It's not every woman who, spotting a dykey relative's sensible shoes, will enthuse, "I had a pair just like that in the revolution!" In fact one of the few places you might expect to hear such a comment is amid a bunch of Chinese exiles of a certain age... such as the elders in Saving Face, a lesbian-directed movie set in New York City. The Chinese grandma gets that line, the movie's best, and it's a great shame when she disappears from the screen. But that's not to say she's the only good thing about Saving Face. All in all it's a delightful movie: a heart-warming, girl-meets-girl story that is neither too saccharine nor too WASPish in nature. It's American, but it's not (hell, half of it is in Mandarin!). It has poignant parts, hilarious bits, and a happy ending that stretches credibility but is utterly essential in this genre. Michelle Krusiec plays Wil, a 28-year-old doctor who is serious and excruciatingly shy. Despite maternal prodding and prompting, she remains unmarried because she is a lesbian. She isn't out to her conservative Chinese family, let alone the community in which they live. Joan Chen — the most famous name in the cast — plays Wil's beautiful but single mother. At 48, Ma is horrified to learn that she is pregnant. Her pregnancy in itself brings shame to her family, but when she refuses both to name the father and to marry, her relationship with her own father breaks down. Lynn Chen plays Vivian, the confident woman and accomplished dancer who steals Wil's heart. They fall (quite literally) in love. And the groovy grandma who sometimes steals the show? She's so far down the pecking order it's not altogether clear who plays her, but I think it's one Connie Hsia. I'm picking that many will categorise Saving Face as a niche-market production and that, for this reason, it is unlikely to get much of a mainstream release. But I could be wrong: Sony backed it and the New York Times had nothing but praise for it. An enthusiastic reader of the Times added her opinion, one I happen to share: "Maybe the filmmakers will be lucky and this will turn into a Big Skinny Chinese-American Wedding... One can only hope!" Claire Gummer - 28th May 2005    

Credit: Claire Gummer

First published: Saturday, 28th May 2005 - 12:00pm

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