Grade: B+/A-
Entire Family: No, older teens and up
1993, 106 min., Color
Comedy-drama
Rated R
Olive Films
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Featured audio: DTS Mono
Bonus features: C-
Trailer
Amazon link

Though Ang Lee’s The Wedding Banquet is rated R for language and brief frontal nudity, it’s included here because the 1993 comedy-drama deals with issues faced by people on the fringe of society. Suitable for families with older teens, it’s the kind of film that can put a humanizing face on the LGBT and immigration headlines, the kind of film that in the process will have you both laughing and tearing up.

It’s almost hard to believe that The Wedding Banquet is more than 25 years old, because it’s still so topical and relevant. It’s about a gay Chinese man who has yet to come out to his family, and a Chinese artist who needs a green card or must marry an American citizen to stay in the country. Lee (The Life of Pi) does a fine job of exploring the anxieties faced by people in their situations, while also managing to create a thoroughly entertaining and absorbing film. An added bonus is the insight we get into another culture, as the wedding customs themselves will fascinate family audiences.

Wai-Tung (Winston Chao, Eat Drink Man Woman) and his unmarried partner Simon (Mitchell Lichtenstein) are happy as can be living together in their New York apartment, though Wai-Tung’s real estate investments seem like a constant headache. One tenant, Wei-Wei (Taiwanese actress May Chin), is way behind on her rent, but her walk-up apartment is no palace and for a would-be real estate tycoon Wai-Tung is a soft-hearted. He accepts artwork in lieu of payment and gives her an air conditioner that he lugs up the many flights of stairs.

The plot is set in motion when Wai-Tung’s parents hire a dating service to find a prospective spouse, and to avoid further dates and get some peace of mind he and Simon decide the solution lies in telling them that Wei-Wei is his intended. Sihung Lung and Ya-Lei Kuei shine as Mr. and Mrs. Gao, with their characters having considerably more depth than the parents in The Birdcage. But as in The Birdcage, they actually show up and a city hall wedding isn’t enough to satisfy them. It takes a full-blown Chinese wedding banquet.

Throw in a pregnancy scare and there’s potential for The Wedding Banquet to turn into a full-blown farce. But that never happens. By balancing comedy and drama and focusing on real solutions to real problems, Lee avoids that and instead creates a film that pulses with the feeling of real life. And Olive Films did a nice job on the Blu-ray transfer. It’s worth an upgrade if you already own this film.

Language: At least a half-dozen f-bombs and a few lesser swearwords
Sex: The married couple are shown with naked shoulders and then implied sex, with brief female frontal nudity in another scene; Simon and Wai-Tung are shown bare-chested in bed
Violence: n/a
Adult situations: The entire plot is an adult situation, but there is drinking and drunkenness at the wedding and a woman has to make a difficult decision
Takeaway: The Wedding Banquet preceded Eat Drink Man Woman by a year and Sense and Sensibility by two years, and while this film isn’t quite as strong as those, it’s still solid

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