Sunday, February 06, 2011

Long Life, Happiness & Prosperity : Grade B

Long Life, Happiness & Prosperity (2002)

Sandra Oh, Valerie Tian; Co-writer and director Mina Shum. (Chinese and English, subtitled).

A working class single mother in a Chinese neighborhood of Vancouver (Oh) struggles to raise her extremely cute twelve-year-old daughter, Mindy (Tian). Mindy finds a magic book and begins to practice spells that will help her mother fall in love (no clue where the missing father is ). The magical-fantasy thread of the movie is that the childish spells really do work, but because Mindy is inept, they do not seem to. When she tries creating a winning lottery number for her mother, she goofs up the spell and the butcher wins instead, but Mindy never knows what happened. There are other charming episodes of that nature, and these give us a loving and intimate portrait of life in that community. In the end, Mindy’s mother does find love, and the other characters’ stories are resolved as well, not all of them happily.

The plot is pretty weak, depending on our acceptance of the magic, but the characterizations are strong, and the acting is excellent, especially by the principals, Oh, and Tian. The writing is sharp and Oh stands out as a fine actor. Cinematography is marvelous and Vancouver never looked so good, even in winter with its bare trees and gray skies. There is practically no dramatic tension in the script. It is instead an almost documentary exploration, with magical realism and humor adding spice. It is a lightweight, but heartwarming, family story that is affecting without being melodramatic, insightful without being voyeuristic.

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