Red Doors A Blanc de Chine Entertainment presentation
Well-told and charming, debuting writer-helmer Georgia Lee's comedy-drama "Red Doors" is big on heart but never sappy. Without overdoing the quirk factor or the melodrama, Lee shows a sure feel for family dynamics, and her light touch brings out the best in the ensemble's lovely, understated performances.
Full of droll character observations, this tale of the Chinese-American Wongs is solid main stream art house fare. The film has picked up awards at the Tribeca and CineVegas festivals as well as Los Angeles' recent Outfest, where it took the prize for screenplay and the Audience Award for first narrative feature.
The title refers to the entrance of the Wongs' house in the suburbs of New York: Red doors are meant to bring luck, which might come in handy when all the Wongs, with the notable exception of cheerfully in-denial mother May-Li (Freda Foh Shen), are experiencing growing pains.
Dad (the wonderful Tzi Ma, of "The Quiet American" and "Rush Hour") has just retired and finds himself with no particular reason to live. The two older, flown-the-coop daughters return home for family dinners around the traditional Lazy Susan, with ample servings of miscommunication. Teenage sister Katie (Kathy Shao-Lin Lee, the director's sister) conducts a literal flirtation with destruction: She and neighbor Simon (Sebastian Stan), who never speak to each other, exchange such love offerings as dead rodents, explosive devices and burning sacks of dog excrement. Ah, youth.
Dance, sensuous and assertive, is important to all three daughters. Medical student Julie (Elaine Kao) takes tango lessons, and Katie performs in a hip-hop troupe at school. For eldest sis Sam (Jacqueline Kim, of "Charlotte Sometimes"), who chose business over Juilliard, ballet is the road not taken. Running into an old boyfriend (Rossif Sutherland), a rather too earnest and sensitive singer-songwriter, stokes Sam's doubts about her impending wedding to Mr. Wrong (Jayce Bartok). Julie, meanwhile, finds herself swept up in the seductive attentions of a beautiful actress (Mia Riverton, one of the film's producers).
The script is most obvious in its romantic setups, most graceful in its deadpan humor. The latter works especially well in exchanges between Dad and Katie, who hap pens to interrupt several of her father's serial suicide attempts. The good-looking production makes affecting use of home movies--footage from the director's own childhood.