Eat a Bowl of Tea

Director: Wayne Wang

Back in 1989, screenwriter Judith Rascoe adapted Louis Chu’s funny, telling novel about the start of the influx of Chinese Americans in post-WWII New York. In director Wayne Wang’s hands, the script allowed him the chance to as he said, return “to the source of myself” as we watch a young Chinese war veteran return back home to Chinatown with his beautiful new bride (in an arranged marriage that luckily also involved love and attraction) only to face overwhelming pressure by family elders and neighbors in producing the first legitimate Chinese American born offspring. There are some moments played purely for laughs as well as great usage of cinematography, including a sweeping romantic moment between the two would-be lovers admitting their attraction in front of a movie screen. In his affection for both the flaws and admirable traits of his ethnic cast, there is no one greater than Wang in bringing an ensemble cast to life as he showed in the 1990’s with The Joy Luck Club and Smoke (before being relegated to lighter fare like Maid in Manhattan and Last Holiday in the 00's). Reminiscent of Nancy Savoca’s films about the ancestry of her Italian heritage (such as True Love and Household Saints), Wang manages to keep us involved in the plight and the film is charming and fresh, illustrating a piece of Chinese American history and the rights surrounding them in America in the first half of the twentieth century with which some of us may not be aware.