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Face

Director:
Bertha Bay-Sa Pan

Writers:
Oren Moverman
Bertha Bay-Sa Pan

Cast
Bai Ling – Kim
Kieu Chinh – Mrs. Liu
Kristy Wu – Genie
Anthony ‘Treach’ Criss – Michael
Ken Leung – Willie
Will Yun Lee – Daniel
Tina Chen – Mrs. Chang

Country:
USA

Language:
English & Chinese (Mandarin? with subtitles)

Release Dates:
USA – January 2002 (Sundance Film Festival)
Brazil – October 2002 (Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival)
USA – November 2002 (St. Louis International Film Festival)
USA – 9 February 2003 (Pan African Film Festival)
Thailand – 24 January 2004 (Bangkok International Film Festival)
Canada – 2 April 2004 (Reel World Film Festival)
USA – 18 March 2005 (Limited)
USA – 14 October 2005 (DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival)
USA – January 2006 (Video premiere)

Awards:
2002 Gen Art Film Festival (New York, NY) – Best Feature
2002 Gotham Awards (New York, NY) – Open Palm Award (Nominated)
2002 Sundance Film Festival – Grand Jury Prize – Dramatic (Nominated)
2002 Urbanworld Film Festival (New York, NY) – Grand Jury Prize – Best Director: Bertha Bay-Sa Pan

Ratings:
USA: R
Australia: M
IMDb: 6.0/10
Metacritic: 50/100
Netflix: 2.7/5
Rotten Tomatoes: 52% (Rotten)

Face is a movie that kinda sneaks up on you. At least it snuck up on me. I guess I wasn’t paying attention at the very beginning and I missed the graphic that said “Queens, New York, 1977.” I saw Bai Ling playing a young girl and having a few scenes with her mother and another friend, then suddenly there’s another girl – but the same mother. Eventually I figured out that we had moved forward 25 years and that the new girl is Bai Ling’s daughter.

So the lesson is, pay attention. Here’s the story. Bai Ling plays Kim, an Americanized girl living in Queens’ Chinatown in the 70s. She is trying to balance her mother’s traditional expectations with her own ambitions. One night she is coerced into sex (possibly roofied, it’s not clear) with a rat bastard named Danny. She gets preggo but it’s clear that she is going to get no support from Danny, and she seems to feel nothing for the baby – who is named Genie. She tearfully leaves the baby with her mother and heads for the airport.

Twenty-five years later, Genie is a young woman who has been raised in the same apartment by her grandmother (Kieu Chinh). Genie’s struggle between the traditional ways and her own desires is just as hard, and she seems poised to make some of the same mistakes her mother made. To add to her confusion, her mother – now a successful businesswoman who lives in Hong Kong – is coming for a visit.

Genie likes to go to the city (Manhattan) to go to clubs. She meets an African American DJ named Michael (played by rapper Treach). What starts out as pure lust starts to turn into more, but Genie knows that her family would never approve of her seeing a black man. Michael has one of the best lines in the movie. When Genie mistakes one of his remarks for a slur against Asians, he says “You’re like an angry Black Man in an Asian Girl’s body.”

Back in 2002 Bai Ling was an up and coming actress. Unfortunately today she’s more known for skimpy outfits and bad singing. She does a good job here though. So does Kieu Chinh as her Mother. I thought Will Yun Lee looked familiar, sure enough he was a Bond bad guy in Die Another Day – also released in 2002. The real standout is Kristy Wu. She does a good job showing the emotional roller coaster Genie is on.

The rest of the acting is a mixed bag. Some of the characters seem a little over the top. Not being a part of this community it’s hard to know how authentic the portrayals are, but for some of the actors the phrase “less is more” might be appropriate. The story takes some turns that I didn’t expect and goes to a very non Hollywood place, which is good.

The Misplaced Boy MST3K Scale:

All in all, Face is flawed but worth seeing. I’m giving it a…

Cambot

Random Quote Whore Quote:

Face is a numeric, disarrayed, stiletto of a movie! Bai Ling is unpredicted!!!

4 thoughts on “Random Movie Review – Face

    • It’s worth renting anyway.
      Sorry it took me so long to respond, because of the “playground equipment” label, WP sent you to my “spam” section.
      Thanks for the comment, glad you like the MST3K scale. ;)

  1. hmmm… I’ll have to check this one out, sounds interesting. I love Asian centric movies, I recognize the mom from The Joy Luck Club, plus Bai Ling’s just crazy cool. ^_~

    • She is, here’s hoping that she finds her way back to showing more of the “cool” side than the “crazy” side.

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