“Red Doors”

By Jae-Ha Kim
Amazon.com
November 16, 2006

A bittersweet film about a Chinese-American family living in New York, Red Doors offers moments of humor as well as emotional triumph.

Though the Wongs may appear to be the perfect nuclear family to outsiders, they’re really just your typical dysfunctional American family.

Helmed by first-time director Georgia Lee, this indie film is to be applauded for presenting a different type of Asian-American family than the model one that’s been mythologized in the media.

Dad (Tzi Ma) is suicidal. Eldest daughter Samantha (Jacqueline Kim) gifts him with therapy sessions, middle daughter Julie (Elaine Kao) is a confused lesbian, and Katie (Lee’s real-life sister Kathy Shao-Lin Lee), the youngest, has a disturbing relationship with a neighborhood boy that involves dead rats, explosives, and no sense of boundaries.

Therapy actually wouldn’t be wasted on Katie, who often appears emotionally dead. When she catches her father trying to hang himself (one of 30 or 40 suicide attempts, as he tells his therapist), she doesn’t blink an eye. Rather, she calmly announces that lunch is ready.

In their own ways, the family members come to terms with their individual crises. The actors, especially the expressive Ma, are convincing in their roles. But overall, Lee doesn’t provide enough cohesiveness with either the story or the pacing to make viewers truly care about the complicated Wongs.

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