The Wedding Banquet- -
A Taiwanese-American man is happily settled in New York with his American boyfriend. He plans a marriage of convenience to a Chinese woman in order to keep his parents off his back and to get the woman a green card. Chaos follows when his parents arrive in New York for the wedding. The Wedding Banquet (Pinyin: X?yàn; Wade-Giles: Hsi yen), is a 1993 film about a gay Taiwanese immigrant man who marries a woman to placate his parents and get her a green card. His plan backfires when his parents arrive in America to plan his wedding banquet. The film was directed by Ang Lee and stars Winston Chao, Mitchell Lichtenstein, May Chin, Ah Lei Gua, Dion Birney, Sihung Lung, and others. The Wedding Banquet is the first of two movies that Ang Lee would make about gay characters; the second is Brokeback Mountain (2005). Lee himself makes a cameo appearance in the film as a wedding guest attending the banquet. The film is a co-production between Taiwan and the United States.
Wai-Tung Gao (Winston Chao) and Simon (Mitchell Lichtenstein) are a happy gay couple living in Manhattan. Wai-Tung is in his late 20s, so his Taiwanese parents (Sihung Lung and Ah-Leh Gua) are eager to see him get married and have a child.
The early part of the movie is madcap comedy. When Wai-Tung’s parents hire a dating service he and Simon stall for time by inventing impossible demands. Chinese opera singers are always men, so they demand an opera singer and add that she must be very tall, must have two Ph.D.’s and should speak five languages. The service actually locates a 5’8″ Chinese woman who sings Western opera, speaks five languages and has a single Ph.D. She is very gracious when Wai-Tung explains his dilemma. At Simon’s insistence, Wai-Tung decides to get married to one of his tenants, Wei-Wei (May Chin), a penniless artist in need of a green card. Besides helping out Wei-Wei, Simon and Wai-Tung hope that this will placate Wai-Tung’s parents.
Surprisingly, Mr. and Mrs. Gao (Sihung Lung and Ah Lei Gua) decide to fly in from Taiwan, bringing US$30,000 to hold a magnificent wedding ceremony for their son. Wai-Tung dares not tell his parents the true situation, because his father has just recovered from a stroke; they go through with the wedding. However, the heartbreak his mother experiences at the courthouse wedding prepares the story for a shift to drama. The only way to atone for the disgraceful wedding is a magnificent wedding banquet. After the banquet, Wei-Wei seduces the drunken Wai-tung, and becomes pregnant. Simon is extremely upset when he finds out, and his relationship with Wai-tung begins to deteriorate.
In a moment of anger, after a fight with both Simon and Wei-Wei, Wai-Tung tells his mother the truth. She is shocked and insists that he not tell his father. However, the perceptive Mr. Gao sees more than he is letting on; he secretly tells Simon that he knows about their relationship, and, appreciating the considerable sacrifices he made for his biological son, takes Simon as his son as well. Simon accepts the Hongbao from Wai-Tung’s father, a symbolic admission of their relationship, but Mr. Gao makes him promise not to tell anyone; without everyone trying to lie to him, he points out, he’d never have gotten a grandchild.
After making an appointment to have an abortion, Wei-Wei decides to keep the baby, and asks Simon to stay together with Wai-Tung and be the baby’s other father. In the final parting scene, as Wai-tung’s parents prepare to fly home, Mrs. Gao has clearly forged an emotional bond to daughter-in-law Wei-Wei, but dismisses Simon; in contrast, Mr. Gao accepts Simon and warmly shakes his hand, but appears to consider Wei-Wei’s contribution as little more than a business transaction. In the end, though, both derive some happiness from the situation, and they walk off to board the plane, leaving the unconventional little family to sort itself out.
The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and won the Golden Space Needle of the Seattle International Film Festival and the Golden Bear of the Berlin Film Festival in 1993.
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