S. Wetzel | 11/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I have been searching and searching for a copy of this film (pref. the DVD version),and finally got one. It was well worth the wait. The movie sheds new light on contemporary Communist China (the culture, the economy, etc.) that most westerners do not realize. I was unaware of the American presence in Beijing, with (not a lot, mind you) but much more Americans holding jobs in Beijing. I liked the American actors (Catherine Kellner plays a journalist who works for a Chinese news agency translating stories for English readers; Josh Lucas plays her philandering boyfriend who has a nice office but I'm not exactly sure what his character does; Matt Faber plays his coworker, some other lesser known actors play supporting roles) for attempting an interesting experiment, and the Chinese actors do a really good job with speaking English (not meant to be a slam at all) and the English subtitles seem to be right on target.
The storyline is really two stories: Leah (Kellner) is a "restless" type who has lived in Beijing for 3 years; she has a circle of American friends, one of whom is Jeff (Lucas), with whom she has been carrying on a romantic relationship. When she catches him cheating on her, she plans revenge by going after a young Chinese Chess (Wei-ji) master. The other storyline involves a Chinese-American, Richard Kao (David Wu) who has brought his grandfather's ashes back to his homeland for burial. Richard is, of course, more American than Chinese, and the culture-clash between his behavior and his Chinese relatives is obvious. He then falls in love with a distant cousin and the rest of his story follows their stormy courtship and his adjusting to his ancestral culture.
Although not billed as such, I would consider the film to be a comedy-drama. The culture-clash scenes are funny, but poignant, as you don't realize how integrated people still become in America, even if you try to hold onto your ethnicity. Richard is portrayed more like the brash American than a Chinese-American. The scenes in which Leah plans her revenge against Jeff are funny but not laugh-out-loud funny. At the time this was made (1998), Lucas seemed to making a career of playing womanizing cads and arrogant jerks, but to his credit he makes you feel a little bit sorry for Jeff, especially in the final revenge ploy which backfires on Leah (I got that sense as he never finds out that she discovered his indiscretion, and she never confronts him about it directly). Kellner is a bit over-the-top in the scene where she discovers Jeff's infidelity (she literally stops traffic), but feels like a real person throughout the movie. In the end, all of the characters have changed and you sense for the better.
If you get a chance to watch this, you won't be disappointed with it. You may learn some valuable lessons about modern Chinese culture and philosophy, about relationships, and what it feels like to find your way home."