My Favorite Movies – The Farewell (2019)

16 Apr

By Tanner Smith

There are movies that take time and many viewings to become one of my favorites–even if I praise it at the start, there’s a difference between “one of the best” and “one of my favorites.” But there are also movies that click with me right away so I already know it’s a new favorite.

The time I saw Lulu Wang’s wonderful, emotional comedy-drama The Farewell in a theater, I knew I was seeing something special.

It’s a comedy if you laugh because you recognize the reality and the honesty of the family dynamic and Awkwafina’s Chinese-American lead character feeling out of place in Changchun and the overall “lie” that drives the narrative. And it’s a drama because said-lie is a family reunion–a wedding that is actually a ruse for the whole family to see Nai Nai (Mandarin for “grandmother”), who doesn’t know (but the family knows) that she has terminal cancer. Naturally, the emotions are going to be there, especially since Awkwafina’s Billi doesn’t understand this is a typical Chinese family custom and feels the need to tell her beloved Nai Nai.

And like my favorite “dramedies,” like “50/50” and “Frances Ha,” “The Farewell” blends both the comedy and the drama flawlessly. Both work because the characters work–you have to laugh with them before laughing at them, and thus, you feel what they feel when something as serious as cancer troubles them.

If there’s anything more important than a comedy that makes you laugh, it’s one that makes you feel.

My favorite scene: There’s an extended dinner sequence in which the family talks about whether or not moving from China to America is the right thing. Is the American Dream a myth? Some think so, while others think it hasn’t been achieved yet.

Here’s an interesting piece of trivia: “The Farewell” won Best Feature at the 2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards, the same award that writer-director Lulu Wang’s boyfriend received from the Indie Spirits for his film just one year prior: Best Feature, Barry Jenkins, “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Maybe these two talented people should write/direct something together–I’d see it! 

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