Reel Affirmations 2006
Review by Tom Avila
Rating: (4 out of 5)
Tuesday, 10/17/2006, 7:00 PM
Feature presentation, $9 at Landmark’s E Street Cinema
English and Mandarin with English subtitles
GEORGIA LEE’S RED Doors is one of those movies that make you glad film festivals exist. It’s touching and, given that it arrives packaged as yet another story about a dysfunctional family made up of individuals struggling between who they are assumed to be and who they want to be, surprisingly original. It’s not the kind of film that will end up at the local multiplex.
Whether it belongs in a gay and lesbian film festival is not entirely clear.
Red Doors picks up the story of the Wong family shortly before the family patriarch’s retirement. Dad is chronically depressed, having attempted suicide some forty times. Oldest sister Sam is a successful, though unhappy, businesswoman preparing to marry a man who is clearly wrong for her. Middle child Julie is a med student who can’t seem to find the right man (yes, this would be the gay story line). And Katie, the high school-aged youngest daughter, is involved in a flirtation with a classmate that has more in common with Mad Magazine‘s ”Spy vs. Spy” than anything Cosmo Girl has shown us.
On the surface, Red Doors comes across one of those movies we’ve seen reworked over and over again. It most certainly calls to mind Double Happiness, a film that introduced most of us to actress Sandra Oh. But Lee seems to have anticipated this reaction and has worked to give Doors its own personality. Much of this can be credited to a brilliant cast, particularly Kathy Shao-Lin Lee, who gives a standout performance as Katie Wong.
Slightly disappointing is the fact that the movie’s gay story line is the weakest we see. It’s a little too neat, a little too clean, and involves one of those sweetly sentimental romantic moments that only happen on film. (It involves a variety pack of mini-gouda cheeses. No, really. It does.)
That aside, Red Doors is more than worth the price of admission and will surely prove to be one of the highlights of this year’s Reel Affirmations. Lee demonstrates the old adage that unhappy families truly are unhappy in different ways. Thankfully she has gone a step further and reminds us they can also be incredibly entertaining.
Also playing: Top of the World ( ) moves seamlessly back and forth between the past and the present as a young woman attempts to replace the roommate she’s not prepared to lose. Claustrophobic and sullen, this Israeli film’s short length proves to be more than enough to tell its predictable story. — TA