I DID NOT SEE THEM UNTIL AFTER we were seated for dinner. They caught my eye because of what they were wearing, identical matching outfits. We were guests at a wedding, and I knew the two of them were not related to me. I had to assume they were a mother and daughter; the little girl looked like she was 5 to 7 years old. They were seated at a table nearby, in seats that were directly in line with my field of vision. Their dresses were made of a soft fabric like crepe or chiffon, with a pattern of autumn colored leaves all over it. With capped sleeves and a rounded neck, they each had a gold necklace around their neck that had a single dropped pearl dangling from it; in their pierced ears there were matching pearl earrings. I tried not to stare but the more I caught glimpses of them the more I found them fascinating in a creepy sort of way. Now I do not want to come off as disrespectful but seeing them dressed and acting the same made me uncomfortable. I have never been one to fall in line to fit in with the majority; I prefer people expressing their individuality and being different without feeling like they must conform to a certain set of “rules.” Watching these two with they identical hair styles and makeup just seemed so weird to me. AFTER THE WEDDING EVENT ON MY DRIVE home, I spent some time thinking about that mother and daughter and my uneasiness with them dressing up to match each other. Having had some friends whose parents tried to raise them to be the same as their parents, I have always questioned the motivation behind it. Why did a mother or father want to have their child be just like them? Was it because that is how they were raised or maybe they wanted their child to be perfect, at least whatever they considered to be perfect? What I believe is children should be raised to be self-thinking, independent beings. Having spent many years feeling like an outsider, one could argue that has contributed to me wanting everyone to freely express their individuality. It is funny; I am remembering an incident with a friend who refused to go out to dinner with me until I had changed my clothes. He did not like what I was wearing, thinking it looked ridiculous on me. Because I did not want to argue I went ahead and put on a different shirt and pair of pants. I needed some of the gumption and fight the main character had in this film festival winner. WAKING UP TO FIND OUT SHE was sent to a place that was going to change and mold her to fit into a certain society, there was only one person Uma, played by Emma Roberts (The Art of Getting By, We’re the Millers), knew who could do such a thing; it was her mother. With Danielle Macdonald (Patti Cake$, Dumplin’) as Chloe, Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians, The Farewell) as Yu, Eiza Gonzalez (Baby Driver, Bloodshot) as Amarna and Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil franchise, Shock and Awe) as The Duchess; this fantasy, sci fi thriller had some lofty goals. Visually, I enjoyed watching this picture; the sets and costumes, especially Milla’s, were wonderful. The cast was well-suited for the roles and worked well together. Unfortunately, I was able to figure out what was going to happen due to the script; it was a mashup of a few previous films in the same genre. There were some scenes that worked, but then others lacked focus. If this had been released (or maybe it was) at the theaters I cannot imagine it doing very well. However, seeing it at home made it more palatable for me. If nothing else, I certainly understood the message that was trying to be conveyed and commend the writers and director for trying to create something original. It was a shame it did not quite get to its high aspirations.
2 1/3 stars
RARELY DOES DEATH HAVE A PRETTY face. I hope when my time ends here I die peacefully in my sleep. Surely, I am not the only one who wishes for this to happen. The first time I ever saw the face of death it was on a woman with cancer. I did my best not to show my horror when I walked into her hospital room. She had turned her head towards me when I knocked on the open door of her room. Her eyes once prominent and bright were now dull and sunken deep into her skull. The thing that shocked me the most was her teeth. They looked huge because of the wasting away of her face. Dimples once deep and defined were just vertical lines now, accentuating the prominence of her teeth. I swear, they looked like they belonged to a carnivorous animal. The dry, chapped lips were stretched thin. She smiled at me; I wondered how much effort that must have taken her. A nurse stopped in to check on her vitals and give her a few ice chips to suck on. It took everything for me not to lose control of myself. I knew this was going to be the last time I would see her alive. I COULD NOT STOP THINKING ABOUT her. Though we never talked about it, it must have been brutal to be aware of the cancer that was taking the life away from her. By the time she died there was a sense of relief among her survivors. I realized right then that the longer a person stays in the throes of a disease, the easier it becomes for the survivors to say goodbye. No one wants to see a loved one suffer; by the time a person succumbs, those left behind are relieved their loved one is no longer in pain. On the other hand, I realize when a person dies suddenly it is harder for their survivors to deal with the unexpected death. I had a friend who was driving their sister to an event and the sister, at some point, raised her hand to her head saying she had a sharp pain. That is all she said because she died instantly from a brain aneurysm. Except for the immediate sharp pain in the sister’s head, she did not suffer; however, the other sister did not recover from that experience for years. Not that she would ever recover completely. Death as you can see has been on my mind since I watched this comedic drama. THE DECISION WAS MADE NOT TO tell her grandmother she had cancer; but Billi, played by Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians, Ocean’s Eight), did not know if she could live with that decision. This film festival winning movie also starred Tzi Ma (The Ladykillers, Arrival) as Haiyan, Diana Lin (Australia Day, The Family Law-TV) as Jian, newcomer Shuzhen Zhao as Nai Nai and Ines Laimins (Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong, Lady Bloodfight) as Kathy. Overall, I enjoyed this picture. Many of the themes in this story have been told before; but here there was a different perspective put on them, which I attributed to the Chinese culture. I wish I could say Awkwafina was outstanding in her role, but I honestly wonder if there could have been more drawn out of her. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very different role for her and I thought she did an excellent job; but, I wanted to see more intensity in her character. Again, it may be because I am not completely schooled in Chinese culture. The humor in the story grew organically for me as it came out of family dynamics. If I was put in such a position as Billi, I do not know how I would have handled the situation. Instead, this picture made me think about what I would want done for me if I fell ill. At times Chinese was spoken with English subtitles.
3 ¼ stars
THERE IS NOTHING LIKE FINDING A bargain. I do not understand people who do not pay attention to sales. To my way of thinking, when something goes on sale at the grocery store I buy multiples of it to last me up until the next time it goes on sale. In addition, I am a coupon cutter; in case I need an item and it is not on sale, then I feel better if I at least have a coupon to lower the price. I consider this simply rational thinking. Yet I know some people who say they cannot be bothered looking for sales or cutting coupons. Though I tend to think of people who fall into this category as being wasteful, I try not to judge them. The group I have a challenge with is the one where people must tell you how much they paid for an item. I am not talking about those who share their bargain treasures of which I am a part of; I am referring to the ones who feel it is necessary to tell me how much they paid for their car, their suit, their earrings and everything else in their possession. I USED TO HAVE A FRIEND who had the need, like a compulsion, to recite the cost of every single thing he owned. If I complimented him on a new shirt, he would tell me the price of it instead of just saying thank you. To me it was bragging because it was obvious he was paying full price; it wasn’t like he said, “Oh you won’t believe it, I got this for ½ off.” I just recently bought a lightweight jacket at a store that is in the throes of going out of business. It was a $100.00 jacket that cost me only $20.00. When someone compliments me on it I share the price and let them know the store has other items if they want to see if there is something for themselves. But this friend wanted to make sure people knew he was wearing top of the line, expensive clothing. I did not understand it at all. Just because a person has money does not mean they have good taste or good sense. This is how I look at money; it certainly can help eliminate some stresses in one’s life, but it does not give a person superhuman power. Heck, there are a lot of wealthy people who are jerks, even downright mean. With my way of thinking, the story in this romantic comedy resonated inside of me. NEW YORK NATIVE RACHAEL CHU, played by Constance Wu (Sound of My Voice, Fresh Off the Boat-TV), was in love with her boyfriend Nick Young, played by relative newcomer Henry Golding. His family back home was none too pleased about it. With Michelle Yeoh (Tomorrow Never Dies; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) as Eleanor Young, Gemma Chan (Mary Queen of Scots, Humans-TV) as Astrid Young Teo and Awkwafina (Ocean’s Eight, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising) as Peik Lin Goh; this film was a good old-fashioned rom-com. The well written script was delivered with precision by the actors, who all formed a diverse soap opera of family and friends. I understand the bestseller this film is based on is the first of a trilogy; if that is the case, I certainly look forward to a sequel. Out of the cast I thought Michelle, Constance and Awkwafina were incredible. There was one scene in particular between Michelle and Constance that was near perfection. The sets and some of the costumes were outrageously over the top; it certainly fit into the story. I could appreciate it since it was necessary; however, it was not for me the most impressive part of this picture. It was the truth of the story that rang loud and clear inside of me. There was a brief extra scene early in the credits.