STUDIO: Warner Home Entertainment
MSRP: $19.98
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
• Commentary by director and producer
Behind Red Doors featurette
Educated: a short film by Georgia Lee
• Cast/filmmaker interviews
• Photo gallery
• Theatrical trailer

The Pitch

See? Asian families are just as screwed up as the rest of us.

The Humans

Tzi Ma, Jacqueline Kim, Elaine Kao, Freda Foh Shen, Kathy Shao-Lin Lee, Mia Riverton.

"So what should we watch on network TV tonight?"
"I think it should be something representative of our cultural heritage and demographic."
"I guess it’s The Joy Luck Club DVD again?"
"Pretty much…"

The Nutshell

The Wongs are your typical suburban family, by way of Asia. They simultaneously are going through their own issues, and none more so than patriarch, Ed Wong (Tzi…or Ma…depending on which ever is his last name…). Ed has just retired and spends his time flirting with suicide in between bouts in front of the computer watching old home movies. Meanwhile, eldest daughter, Sam (Kim), is in the middle of preparations for a wedding she’s not sure she wants to have. Middle daughter May-Li (Fo Shen) truggles through the dating scene but soon discovers that the guy she wants may not be a guy at all; and youngest daughter Katie (Shao-Lin Lee) is involved in warfare of the heart with a classmate by way of pranks that they play on each other throughout the picture. When Ed decides to leave his miserable life and become a monk, Sam confronts her fiancé, May-Li embarks on a new kind of relationship (i.e. muff diving), and Katie and her beau almost kill each other with fireworks before even having a date, they all must reevaluate their lives.

Obviously having Fabfunk as the prop master for the flick might not have been the best idea…

The Lowdown

This is a really solid picture, handled with deftness and especially subtlety (a word I’ll be using several times here) by writer / director Georgia Lee, who has won awards with her short films and who also apprenticed under Martin Scorsese. Although the performances are all good here, what especially stands out for me is that Lee portrays this family as any other, with the same dreams, issues, hang-ups, etc. that any other American family has. Yes this is an Asian family, but that’s not what the film is about. Middle daughter May-Li is engaging in a lesbian relationship (presumably for the first time), but that’s not everything that her character is about. And youngest daughter Katie is a disaffected kid who doesn’t connect with her family much, but that’s not all that she’s about. Those elements are just subtle undertones in the lives of the characters and they (especially the lesbian relationship) aren’t shoved into your face. They’re just part of the tapestry of the overall film.

"…and Picard should have chosen to go back to Ten Forward where he first met Soran rather than to Veridian III…and when the Enterprise was under attack by the Klingons, that whole torpedo matching shield frequency thing was total bullshit, because they could have rotated shield frequencies, or ejected the warp core…but NOOOOOO…they just had to blow up the ship….and that whole way that Kirk died was fucked up…and by the way, what was the deal anyway with your dad driving the damn starship for like 140 years?…"

What isn’t so subtle is that Papa Ed is going through a major life crisis. He toys with putting his head in a noose, with slitting his wrists in the bathtub, and even giving himself a 110 volt soaking in said tub. But still, Tzi Ma portrays it subtly, relying more on his facial expression than just coming out and saying, “I’m depressed.” Everything you need to know about him is conveyed in his actions and reactions and that’s what especially makes his character work.

Jacqueline Kim (Sulu’s daughter for those of you wondering) isn’t quite as nuanced in her portrayal of her own crisis, but that’s because her situation is put out there a bit more by director Lee. But Kim’s good in the role nonetheless. Sam’s a successful executive, who’s about to marry a yuppy Wonderbread type, Trent (Tyler Maynard) and is having second thoughts, especially when she runs into an old flame, Alex (Rossif Sutherland). Unfortunately, also not quite so subtle is Trent, as he’s a blunt character, out of place in an otherwise stellar ensemble. Kathy Shao-Lin Lee also is engaging as Katie, a hip hop dancing high schooler who isn’t fazed by either her father’s playing around with a noose nor the repeatedly weird pranks that her would-be beau, Mark (Jayce Bartok) throw at her, including filling her folder with bondage porn that she gets called to the principal’s office for. Their running prank war is a fun little highlight of the flick. Finally, co-producer / actress Mia Riverton is sexy and likeable as Mia Scarlett, the other half of the lesbian affair.

"Oh good, China Chow, Kristin Kreuk and Maggie Q are on their way to join us…"

Red Doors deservedly won several awards at the Tribreca, Cinevegas and Outfest Film Festivals and I think that Georgia Lee could be a director to watch for in the future. Doors has elements of American Beauty to it and has been compared to early Ang Lee. It’s an appealing film.

The Package

There’s a commentary by Georgia Lee, and a making-of featurette, Behind Red Doors that runs about nine minutes. Also included is Educated, a short film by Lee that runs about 10 minutes. A photo gallery and theatrical trailer round out the goodies.

7.7 out of 10