Rob Reviews "The Farewell"
Family has always been very important to me. I don’t put a ton of stock in astrology, but as a Cancer, it is one of the characteristics we are known for. Part of it is probably because I am an only child, but I am sure the fact that local family has never really been a thing for most of the life I remember plays a part in the fact that I don’t really feel like I have friends but more have different levels of family. Whenever a bunch of us get together, it is like a reunion of estranged relatives that still enjoy seeing each other, no matter what brings us to the same place at the same time.
The reason that I seem to be rambling through all of this is because of writer/director Lulu Wang’s latest huge hit, “The Farewell”. In it, Awkwafina plays Billi, a Chinese-American twenty-something who is just trying to find herself while living in New York City. The only child of two immigrant parents, their hopes for her tend to be higher than those she holds for herself, but Billi seeks solace in the relationship she has with her grandmother, Nai Nai (Shuzhen Zhou). When she finds out that Nai Nai has terminal lung cancer, she goes into a bit of a panic and wants to call her, but her parents remind her that their culture dictates that the patient must not know at all costs. In order to keep the family secret but get everyone together to see her one last time, they put together a wedding for her very young and very new to dating only male cousin, but don’t really want Billi there because she may not be able to keep up the façade. She gets there anyway so she can spend one last few days with the most important person in her life.
There are no words to describe how much I enjoyed this film. From a smart and funny script (and when basing things on true stories, that can be an incredibly tough task, especially when directing that same material) to a cast that REALLY works well together, this works on every level. Awkwafina (who apparently lobbied herself in a big way to get this role) shows some great range that I don’t know she has been able to show up to this point as a girl who doesn’t know what she wants to be while knowing she doesn’t want to be the girl her parents feel she should be. There is a palpable love that she has for her castmates that translates beautifully to the screen, and the emotional parts of the story really hit hard, from the struggles between siblings to the genuine confusion and fear of the wedded couple.
With the buzz that has followed “The Farewell” since it debuted earlier this year, this could be the sleeper hit of the summer. Check this out, no matter what way you do it, because it is worth it!