Movie Review: My Wedding and Other Secrets

By Peter Calder

14 comments
Matt Whelan and Michelle Ang make an odd but happy couple. Photo / Supplied
Matt Whelan and Michelle Ang make an odd but happy couple. Photo / Supplied

A slight, charming and oddball cross-cultural romantic comedy might seem an odd candidate for a five-star rating. But films that achieve completely what they set out to do have a strong claim on such a plaudit, which is why Sione's Wedding, despite its clunky moments, romped into the top of the field.

The newest Kiwi movie deserves nothing less. For a start, there's not a false note in it and, like Sione's, it's a vigorous portrayal of a unique group that is significant in our society but - until now - absent from our filmmaking: the New Zealand-born children of Chinese immigrants.

These kids, who are "yellow on the outside and white on the inside", refer to themselves as "bananas" - a comic term, which doesn't give much away about the stress of being caught stranded between two cultures. But that stress is precisely what writer-director Liang explored in her wise and touching 2005 documentary Banana in a Nutshell, in which she followed the troubled course of her relationship with her white boyfriend as he prepared to ask her parents
for their permission to marry her.

The logical extension of the idea into a feature film has turned out a cracker - a heartfelt and mildly goofy comedy with a strong thread of pathos that tells a story we should all listen to.

Liang's avatar here is Emily Chu (Ang, an alumna of early seasons of Outrageous Fortune), the youngest of three sisters in a middle-class family whose parents immigrated from Hong Kong. A geeky overachiever, she has brushed aside the medical career her parents had planned and is instead studying filmmaking (the film abounds in true-life self-referentiality: Emily makes a documentary called Girl Meets Boy whose subject matter, and cover art, are the same as Banana's).

Emily's engagingly neurotic personality is bent even more out of shape when she meets James (Whelan, Brad in Go Girls) and, despite - or perhaps because of - his unholy appetite for breakfast cereal and the Dungeons and Dragons game, falls in love with him.

Liang's true-life story was about the couple's conspiracy to persuade her parents (who never appeared) to drop their attachment to hidebound tradition and let her marry a "gweilo", as Caucasians are called. Wisely, the fictional version gives Emily a character trait that provides it with dramatic energy: she is simultaneously self-centred and anxious to please, and the film is about her realisation she can't be true to anyone if she's not true to herself.

There's an unaffected charm about this movie that grabs you from the get-go. Its breezy confidence is reflected in its bright colour palette, and the script - to which Outrageous co-writer Rachel Lang made a mentoring contribution - is as lean as a whippet and as smooth as a pebble. Crucially, it knows to end a scene leaving us wanting more and the pace is as urgent as the main character's desires.

The performances, too, are as modest as they are winning. Whelan and Ang work well together and supporting characters are both well written and well played: London as Eric, Emily's snobby fellow student, is especially enjoyable.

The news that a sequel to Sione's Wedding is in the works and the recent release of Curry Munchers is happy evidence that our movies are at last reflecting our multicultural make-up. But My Wedding is, without doubt, the pick of the bunch so far.

LOWDOWN

Stars: 5/5
Verdict: Mildly goofy, utterly charming.
Cast: Michelle Ang, Matt Whelan, Kenneth Tsang, Cheng Pei Pei, Celeste Wong, Katlyn Wong, Simon London
Director: Roseanne Liang
Running time: 88 mins
Rating: PG (adult themes)
Language: In English and Mandarin with English subtitles
Opens: Thursday

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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