Tuesday, 21 August 2018

I've Just Seen: The Wedding Banquet (1993)

 Director: Ang Lee

With The Wedding Banquet I have finally cracked 2,000 films watched in my lifetime. Thankfully this was a lovely film with which to achieve this milestone. I have enjoyed pretty much all of Ang Lee's films, and the progressive message about love and family at the heart of this one still feels relevant 25 years later.

Wai-Tung Gao is a Taiwanese man living in New York with his partner Simon. After receiving continuous pressure from his parents back in Taiwan to marry (particularly after his father suffers a stroke), Wai-Tung and Simon decide Wai should just marry a girl to get his parents off his back. Luckily one of Wai's tenants, Wei-Wei, needs a green card, so the three plan the wedding. But then Wai-Tung's parents arrive in America to see the wedding, forcing the celebrations to be bigger, putting pressure on Wai-Tung and Simon's relationship, and making Wei-Wei feel the separation from her family.

There is a generosity at the heart of the film. While some elements might have aged, as gay people have become more accepted in mainstream society, overall the film is still very sweet and touching. The cross-cultural element is something we in 2018 are dealing with as migration occurs. The Wedding Banquet shares similar ideas with My Big Fat Greek Wedding and more recently The Big Sick. Such romantic-comedies are not only about people finding someone to love, but also finding a balance between Western individualism and the more collective cultural philosophies of the East and Middle East. This adds more meat to the story and raises the stakes, creating a satisfying mix that goes beyond simple boy-meets-girl stories, and portrays the messiness of romantic life. The Wedding Banquet also has the added element of homosexuality, making the choice facing Wai-Tung even starker.

As a fan of the romantic-comedy genre, as well as someone who likes to explore other countries and cultures through film, I hope that future romantic-comedies continue to engage with such themes. To use a horrible word, such themes are more "relevant" than ever, and in a world that appears to be becoming more isolationist, surely focusing on love and relationships crossing divides is a good way to bridge gaps and generate understanding.

Here's to the next 2,000 films!

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