Review: Almost Perfect
I was fortunate enough to attend the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF) this year. Since my friends generally aren’t very involved when it comes to AA current events, it was nice to see people who instantly recognized Angry Asian Man, 8Asians.com, etc. I actually met a blogger from 8Asians and Ho Chie fromTaiwaneseAmerican.org. All in all it was a cool experience.
I only saw two films during the night that I attended, both of which I had no knowledge of prior to the festival. While I felt that Almost Perfect and When Love Comes both deserve more exposure than they currently have in the US, I will focus on the former because it is a purely Asian American film. When Love Comes is an amazing movie too, but it is a Taiwanese Production and less relevant to this blog. Check it out if you would like to watch a Juno-esque film from the perspective of Taiwanese youth and with better storytelling.
Almost Perfect had relatively big names in Edison Chen and Kelly Hu but I never heard of it. With no knowledge of the film other than a brief synopsis before entering the theater, I was able to go into the film with a blank slate.
The film follows a philanthropist named Vanessa (Kelly Hu) in her early 30s who is facing pressure from her parents (specifically, her father) to get married. On the other hand, she and her sister have an agreement to never get married due to bad past experiences. She also has a brother Andy (Edison Chen) who appears to be using Vanessa to hide from his own problems. When Vanessa finally meets a man she likes in Dwayne (Ivan Shaw), chaos breaks out in her family.
A premise like this allows plenty of room for both humor and commentary on family-related issues that often affect the Asian American community. For example, having been to a Chinese wedding in Hong Kong, I know that in some cultures the marriage ceremony is more significant to the family than the bride and groom. It’s easy to imagine how some people who grew up in the US might find this hard to accept. The film explores issues like these without putting so much emphasis on them that it becomes preachy or dull. It touched upon Vanessa’s awkward interaction with her Chinese aunts, but she clearly remained the main character. In other words, the film didn’t really sacrifice storytelling to be more ‘Asian American’; it showed its identity as an AA film pretty naturally.
Bertha Bay-Sa San never let us forget that the film was, at its core, a romantic comedy focusing on Vanessa. She didn’t give too much thought about being Asian. She just sort of lived it. This made the film a little more believable than some of the others I’ve seen in a similar vein (i.e. Dim Sum Funeral). In a lot of ways, this is a lot of what being Asian American is about. A lot of us spend our time embracing the eastern and western cultures around us, rather than picking out the differences. A film with the same storyline could be made about a character of any race, yet the difference between that film and this one would be the Asian American element. It shows up organically, and I think we need more of that in Asian American efforts in film.
The story clearly took the writers some time to create. The characters, while not always realistic, were multi-dimensional. The plot involved every member of the family but was never hard to follow, which is important when making a comedy. The romance was a little awkward at first, but became more believable as we learned more about the characters. While the storyline itself didn’t particularly impress me, I think it was fitting for the movie the team was trying to make.
I generally judge acting based on how much I saw actors on screen as opposed to characters, and I think the cast did a pretty good job. I worked in the Hong Kong film industry as an intern and followed HK film for a while before that, so I knew who Edison was. I am impressed that the director could pull a performance like that out of who many consider to be a pretty boy pop star. Kelly Hu definitely proved that she could hold her own in a lead role. Roger Rees also stood out to me because I have seen fathers like him in real life, and he nailed it.
There wasn’t much about the cinematography that I could complain about, but I am not an expert in the matter. The sets were limited, and I think they did a good enough job with the lighting and set design to create very believable environments. I don’t remember scenes in particular that I thought were incredibly well-shot, but I don’t remember being unhappy with any shots either. There were moments in the film that I feel were edited a little awkwardly, such as a scene where Vanessa was on the phone. No major complaints here though.
Overall I feel like this was a polished effort that could use a lot more marketing, because a lot of people would really enjoy the film. It has recognizable faces, a cute story, and good production. It’s one of the more well-rounded Asian American films I’ve personally seen, and would encourage others to check it out.
For more information about the film, please visit the official Facebook page.