Wai-Tung (Winston Chao) is a gay Taiwanese man who lives in New York with his white American partner, Simon (Mitchell Lichtenstein). Constantly urged by his traditional parents to settle down with a nice woman, Wai-Tung decides to embark on a marriage of convenience with his tenant Wei-Wei (May Chin), who is in need of a green card. Everything is complicated when his parents decide to fly in from Taiwan to meet the bride and plan their wedding.
The Wedding Banquet is enjoyable and touching, with empathetic characters, an engaging plot, and a good feel for New York during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s (it doesn’t hurt that Mitchell Lichtenstein is a son of Roy Lichtenstein, New York pop artist extraordinaire). Of note is a bittersweet sequence you will recognize if you’re at all familiar with The Birdcage (1996), with Simon and Wai-Tung swapping out their personal apartment decor and mementos for more generic home furnishings prior to the parents’ visit.
This 1993 film was Ang Lee’s first to get a theatrical release in the United States. It is the second movie in a loose trilogy exploring the tensions between modern Taiwanese characters and traditional values, also known as Lee’s “Father Knows Best” trilogy. All films feature actor Lung Sihung, who plays Wai-Tung’s father in The Wedding Banquet. He is in fine form here, by turns sweet, funny, and sneaky (some might say manipulative).
Run time: 106 minutes.
Languages: Mandarin, English.
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