Saving Face (2005) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

This is a movie you'd skip if you just read the plot summary. A female director shows how three generations of a Chinese-American family grapple with generational conflicts and the ways to resolve modern American problems without disturbing the complex social values of a traditional society. The Grandmother is dying. The widowed 48-year-old mother is pregnant. The daughter is a surgeon who has not come out of the closet. In other words, it's a soap opera. The "plot," if it has one, centers around the identity of the mother's lover and the daughter's willingness to share her secret. In both cases, a stubborn grandfather stands at the center of the storm, prepared to heap scorn upon anyone who doesn't respect his traditional values. (And by "respect," he doesn't mean "accept." He means "share.")

Sounds pretty awful, doesn't it? The final nail, the one about ready to seal the coffin, is the fact that it is a chick-flick, rated .9 higher by women than by men at IMDb.

Despite all that, I'm going to tell you guys that you'll probably enjoy it. Why?

1) The chick-flick status is the good kind, like Amelie, not the bad kind like Dirty Dancing or Beaches. By that I mean that it is a film that men like (7.5 at IMDb), but that women like far more (8.4), as opposed to the kind of movie women love and men have to pretend to tolerate in order to avoid an argument.

2) The film is pervaded by a sly and subversive sense of humor. I've found that men can forgive almost anything from the rare woman with a great sense of humor.

3) The characters and situations all seem genuine to me. There is some time compression, of course. It's pretty difficult to believe that so many crucial events happen so close together, but I had no problem believing that they happened.

4) Not only is the script genuine, but the acting is remarkably effective. Given that it is an indy film made with virtual unknowns, I expected cable access acting levels, and I was completely wrong. Not only do the performers completely master the material, but they switch back and forth between English and Mandarin without causing any confusion to the viewer. (There are sub-titles, but they are almost unnecessary.)

5) The film has excellent production values. It looks and sounds as good as the top romantic comedies produced by the big studios.

6) Dude, let's get to the good stuff! Four words: hot lesbian Asian chicks! I'm only half joking. The love scene between Michelle Krusiec and Lynn Chen features topless nudity from both, and while it does not feature hot grinding action like that scene with Anne Heche and Joan Chen in Wild Side, it is perfectly charming and arousing. Chauvinistic and condescending though the attitude may be, the fact is that guys love lesbian scenes when they involve attractive, feminine women.

The lesbian love scene is short and not exploitative, so that really isn't as big a selling point as I pretended above. Nonetheless, I liked the film very much, mostly for the humor and the insight into the family's adaptation to America, less for the heart-warming romances, although they are there as well, and your wife or significant other will appreciate them.

Because it appeals to men and even more strongly to women, it's a good date movie.

Not for me of course. I take my dates to see The Devil's Rejects.



  • Widescreen, anamorphically enhanced.
  • full-length commentary
  • brief deleted scenes
  • "behind the scenes" featurette
  • "Sundance Diary"



Michelle Krusiec and Lynn Chen show their breasts in a lovemaking scene.

The Critics Vote ...

The People Vote ...

  • IMDB summary. IMDb voters score it 7.7/10. I doubt that it can sustain that altitude, but I don't have any problem with it.
  • It maxed out at 56 screens and grossed about a million dollars in the USA.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's a B. Despite the arthouse distribution, most people who see it will enjoy it. It's genuine and funny.

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