Film/Video/TV Annotations


The Wedding Banquet


MediumFilm
KeywordsAcculturation, Asian Experience, Family Relationships, Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Issues
Summary

A film characterized as comedy/drama, The Wedding Banquet is a sensitive, tender, and sometimes humorous portrayal of a family "situation" illuminating cultural, generational, and sexuality conflicts. Wai Tung (Winston Chao) is a successful Taiwanese-American whose parents, Mr. and Mrs. Gao (Sihung Lung and Ah-Leh Gua) are determined to orchestrate a suitable match for Wai Tung from their home in Taiwan.

Little do they know of Wai Tung’s long-term relationship with Simon (Mitchel Lichtenstein), but Wai Tung is able to play the reluctant recipient of his parents’ matchmaking because of the thousands of miles separating them. When they announce that they are coming for a visit, Wai Tung and Simon must not only hide their relationship (Simon becomes Wai Tung’s landlord-roommate), but Wai Tung decides that he is going to fake an engagement to Wei Wei (May Chin), a struggling artist who is one of his Taiwanese tenants (he’s a landlord himself), because she is about to be deported. It seems to be a perfect solution.

When the Gaos arrive they are shocked, disappointed, and embarrassed that Wai Tung and Wei Wei are not going to have a huge wedding banquet but have opted to get married in a civil ceremony with no guests except for them and Simon (still playing the landlord-roommate). After the wedding the group goes to dinner where one of Mr. Gao’s former army colleagues offers to host a "proper" wedding banquet for the newlyweds. Mr. and Mrs. Gao are ecstatic; Wai Tung, Wei Wei, and Simon are caught in a web by now and agree to continue the charade until the Gaos return to Taiwan. The wedding banquet takes place, and it is an opulent affair. In their drunken state, Wei Wei and Wai Tung make love in their "honeymoon" suite.

Not surprisingly, Wei Wei becomes pregnant. As the story unfolds, Simon becomes angrier and angrier; Mr. and Mrs. Gao stick around far longer than is expected because of Mr. Gao’s illness; Wei Wei decides to have an abortion, and backs out; and Mr. Gao witnesses (and hears) a blowout between Simon and Wai Tung, (no one was aware of his rudimentary English skills), and now knows that they are lovers.

The story ends with Wai Tung, Simon, and Wei Wei deciding to keep the baby and all live together and share parenting. Wai Tung discloses his relationship with Simon to his mother (who begs him not to tell his father, who already knows!), and privately Mr. Gao lets Simon know that he "knows" and honors him as his son’s partner. Mr. and Mrs. Gao leave for Taiwan, sadly but with the knowledge of their son’s happiness and the prospect of a grandchild, all in confines of this very, very strange family that is, nonetheless, a family.

Commentary

I have used this film several times in my literature and medicine class as part of an examination of families. Our student population includes very large numbers of Asian-Pacific Islanders (here, that means mostly first-generation students whose origins are East Indian, Chinese, and Vietnamese). They resonated with the film in quite extraordinary ways because of its portrayal of the often acute pressures they feel living between two cultures.

The physical relationship between Wai Tung and Simon also presents some uncomfortable, personally confrontive moments for students viewing the film. We find that these issues of culture and sexuality move back and forth as foreground and background throughout the film.

DirectorAng Lee
Leading ActorsWinston Chao, Ah-Leh Gua, Mitchel Lichtenstein, Sihung Lung
StudioSamuel Goldwyn/Central Motion Pictures
Year1993
Color/BWColor
Running Time108 minutes
Video SourceCBS Fox
MiscellaneousIn English and some Chinese, at which time it is subtitled in English.
Annotated by Wear, Delese
Date of Entry 08/13/96
Last Revised 10/08/96