The Wedding Banquet is Ang Lee's second movie, and the second in his Father Knows Best trilogy, after Pushing Hands and before Eat Drink Man Woman.
Simon and Wei-Tung live together in Manhattan. Wei-Tung is the money-conscious real-estate broker, while Simon is a physical therapist. In short, they're a happily together gay couple. Trouble is, Wei-Tung's traditional Taiwanese parents have no idea and constantly pressure him to marry.
When the couple learns that one of Wei-Tung's tenants Wei-Wei needs to marry an American to get a green card, Simon comes up with a plan. Wei-Tung and Wei-Wei should marry so Wei-Wei gets a green card, Wei-Tung can get his parents off his back and Simon and Wei-Tung can live happily ever after.
But oh, the best laid plans in romantic comedies...
When Wei-Tung tells his parents of his marriage to Wei-Wei before a justice of the peace, his parents are appalled. There must be a wedding ceremony and there must be a wedding banquet. And they immediately fly over to Manhattan to set up both. Suddenly, what was a simple plan becomes an all-out wedding affair, complete with bridesmaids, guest-lists, pictures and honeymoon suites. And in the middle of the whole fiasco is the big secret between the bride, groom and best man.
There's a light vitality that flows through The Wedding Banquet like Mozartean music despite the heavy issues that director Ang Lee tackles. Wei-Tung, played by Taiwanese model Winston Chao, lives the duality of an asian-american, coming from asian roots, surrounded by American culture and trying to find identity somewhere in between. On top of that, there's the double duality of living as a homosexual, open in America, yet closeted to parents of an older generation where homosexuality is taboo. It's the effervescent humor, along with the tenderness Ang Lee gives in his treatment of the characters' relationships that keep the mood and energy of the film buoyant even at serious moments.
From the well-written screenplay, the ensemble brings depth to each of the characters, and their interactions sparkle on screen. Although we get to see Wei-Tung as a whole, this whole comes from his different interactions between the people around him. There's the chemistry between Wei-Tung and Wei-Wei, the love laced with pain that comes from his committed relationship with Simon and then there's the subtleties of being a closeted gay man to his parents. Taiwanese model Winston Chao does an excellent job in portraying the spectrum of subtle emotions Wei-Tung requires. Singer May Chin and Mithcell Lichtenstein's Simon support him well.
Watching everything unfold in The Wedding Banquet, you get the feeling that the cast and director really fell in love with the movie. They put the romance and comedy into the movie without dodging the larger, deeper issues the Ang Lee's screenplay poses. And the result is an incredibly satisfying, thought-provoking movie that's hilarious and tender at the same time.
Interestingly, The Wedding Banquet was one of the most profitable films of the '90s. With an estimated budget of $750,000 and an $30 million worldwide gross, The Wedding Banquet was Ang Lee's first big hit.
The Wedding Banquet
Also known as: Hsi Yin
Cast (in credits order)
Mitchell Lichtenstein .... Simon
Jeanne Kuo Chang .... Wai Tung's Secretary
Winston Chao .... Wai-tung
Paul Chen (I) .... Guest
May Chin .... Wei-wei
Chung-Wei Chou .... Chef
Yun Chung .... Guest
Ho-Mean Fu .... Guest
Michael Gaston .... Justice of the Peace
Country: Taiwan / USA
Language: Mandarin / English
Sound Mix: Dolby