REVIEW: Dim Sum Funeral (2008)

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A group of siblings get more than what they get bargained for in this touching dramedy from director Anna Chi.

When Mrs. Xiao passed away, her housekeeper Viola is tasked with notifying her four children. All four have been estranged from both her and each other. Only son Alexander is a doctor who has been having issues in his marriage to ex-Miss Taiwan Cindy. Oldest daughter Elizabeth is still grieving over the loss of her son, thus forcing her to separate from American husband Michael. Middle daughter Victoria is a real estate agent while youngest daughter Mei Mei is a martial arts film star in a lesbian relationship.

When the siblings get together, things start out troubling. They learn that their mother had wanted a traditional Chinese funeral, which lasts for a week. However, as they learn more about their mother, the group slowly begin to realize they may not have known their mother as they say they have. To them, their mother always treated them poorly, this causing the split. When an old friend of Mrs. Xiao, pianist and tai chi expert Chow Lin comes for the funeral, he slowly begins to brighten the group up. Along the way, secrets and revelations may do the one thing this family has needed all along: bring them together.

When it comes to Asian-American films, it becomes a meshing of traditional values combined with modern day issues. This film, written by Donald Martin, is a very beautiful dramedy that has Chinese traditional values in terms of a funeral being held while the film is set in Seattle. The ensemble cast is great in the film as we see their characters learning to overcome their personal struggles by doing the one thing they should do as a family, support each other.

The name Bai Ling may be a turn-off to some viewers, but it is safe to say she actually gets a great role her as the girlfriend of martial arts film star Mei Mei. Despite only having one bad line in the film, she brings the support to her partner as Dede quite well. Steph Song struggles with being typecast in martial arts films and is happy with her relationship as Mei Mei. She gets perhaps one of the most shocking revelations in the film with her being the youngest of the siblings. Ling and Song do have a hilarious moment when it is revealed that Mei Mei and Dede want to have a baby and they attempt to find a donor in a young monk played by Curtis Lum.

Julia Nickson brings an emotional performance as Elizabeth, a journalist who has been having an on-and-off relationship with estranged husband Michael. Her character is reminiscent of Janet Jackson’s character in Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married with both characters dealing with loss and separation. Rumble in the Bronx and Black Mask co-star Francoise Yip’s Victoria and Talia Shire, in a welcome role as housekeeper Viola, attempt to serve as the “glue” holding the bond between the siblings with Veronica dealing with one small issue in which she blames her mother. The mother herself is played by Lisa Lu, a veteran of both Hollywood and Hong Kong films.

Finally, Chang Tseng does bring a touch of class to the role of Chow Lin, an old friend of Mrs. Xiao’s who is one of China’s most respected pianists and is also a Tai Chi expert. In his opening scene, he provides a hilarious scene after having a big American breakfast. He also connects well with Veronica’s son as they play a funny face game. Of course, there is a predictability when it comes to his character and why he has arrived but the final act of the film brings a twist that could either break or keep the bond together.

Dim Sum Funeral is a great look at a Chinese-American family overcoming their personal struggles together during the traditional mourning of their mother. A terrific ensemble cast, some laughs, some tears, and the great twists all make this worth a watch.

WFG RATING: A-

Reel One Entertainment presents a Dim Sum Productions Film. Director: Anna Chi. Producer: Jeffrey Lando. Writer: Donald Martin. Cinematography: Michael Balfry. Editing: Karen Porter.

Cast: Bai Ling, Steph Song, Talia Shire, Russell Wong, Kelly Hu, Julia Nickson, Lisa Lu, Francoise Yip, Chang Tseng, Adrian Hough, Valerie Tian, Issah Brown, Curtis Lum.

DVD

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