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The Wedding Banquet

March 6, 2016

TWBThis film is included among the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die” and it won the “best film prize” at the 1993 Berlin Festival

Wai-Tung Gao and Simon are a happy gay couple living in Manhattan. Wai-Tung is in his late 20s, so his tradition-minded parents are eager to see him get married and have a child in order to continue the family line.

Wai-Tung works out “pumps iron like a madman” every time he listens to one of the cassettes his mother sends him from afar, asking him to be less “choosy”, settle down with a wife, and start a family. Exercising is therefore also a way of lifting the “burden” of his parents’ expectations. In Simon’s opinion, Wai Tung is “such a disgusting yuppie,” with his mobile phone; his home phone, “which he hogs like a total pig”; and his “piles of unread magazines – World Trade, Advocate, GQ, Fortune” lying next to his favourite couch. Wai Tung swallows big slices of pizza.

When Wai-Tung’s parents hire a dating service, he and Simon stall for time by inventing impossible demands. They demand an opera singer and add that she must be 5’9″ have two PhD’s and speak five languages. The service actually locates a 5’8″ Chinese woman who sings Western opera, speaks five languages and has a single PhD. She is very gracious when Wai-Tung explains his dilemma, as she, too, is hiding a relationship (with a Caucasian man).

Wei-Wei (May Chin), an abstract painter, is one of Wai-Tung’s tenants. She is so poor that she begs Wai-Tung to take one of her paintings as payment for three months of back rent. She is an inch away from getting deported and so Simon proposes that Wai-Tung marry her and then she can stay in the country and he can tell his parents that he’s finally tying the knot. Besides helping Wei-Wei, Simon and Wai-Tung hope that this will placate Wai-Tung’s parents.

Mr. and Mrs. Gao announce they will visit from Taiwan, bringing US$30,000 to hold an extravagant wedding for their son. Wai-Tung dares not tell his parents the truth, because his father, a retired officer in the Chinese Nationalist Army, has just recovered from a stroke.

When they all arrive at Wai Tung’s home, the walls have been carefully rid of pictures and gay pride posters and replaced by Mr. Gao’s calligraphy exercises.

They go through with the civil wedding which h is conducted in the most perfunctory manner possible. Wei-Wei and Wai-tung pause awkwardly for the ceremonial kiss after taking their wedding oaths and Wai-tung hurriedly kisses Wei-Wei on the cheeks; this contrasts with the previous couple before them that was married who did not stop kissing even after they were officially married.

A magnificent wedding banquet is offered by Mr. Gao’s former driver in the army who now owns a restaurant and reception hall.

In a wide saloon — with Western-type, modern furniture, together with red lamps and dragons — Taiwanese, Asian Americans, Chinese, and white Americans enjoy the wonderfully presented food (many sweet and sour dishes are discernible), sitting side by side around twenty round tables, in which no hierarchical order can be possibly established. Traditional Chinese elements, such as the “lotus soup” served to the married couple in order to conceive a child very soon, are interwoven with typically Western practices: the tossing of the bride’s bouquet and the removal of her garter on the part of the newlywed husband.

Note the assumption that as long as the wedding day goes well, they will live happily ever after.

And then we hear of this facebook debacle. Weddings are soooo expensive. Here in Australia, the average cost for the banquet far outweig

After the banquet, the part arrived on in the bridal suite and the guests will only leave once the couple are naked, under the bed sheets. Wei-Wei has sex with a drunken Wai-Tung, and becomes pregnant. Simon is extremely upset when he finds out, and his relationship with Wai-Tung begins to deteriorate.

TWB 2Shortly after, Mr. Gao has another stroke, and in a moment of anger, after a fight with both Simon and Wei-Wei, Wai-Tung admits the truth to his mother. She is shocked and insists that he not tell his father. However, the perceptive Mr. Gao has seen more than he is letting–on, not least because, unknown to them, he understands English and so has worked out the cause of an argument between the gay couple. He secretly tells Simon that he knows about their relationship, and, appreciating the considerable sacrifices he made for his biological son, takes Simon as his son as well. Simon accepts a gift of a lot of money (in a hongbao, a red envelope) from Wai-Tung’s father, a symbolic admission of their relationship. Mr. Gao seeks and receives Simon’s promise not to tell his secret for, as he points out, without the sham marriage, he’d never have a grandchild.

While en route to an appointment for an abortion, Wei-Wei decides to keep the baby, and asks Simon to stay together with Wai-Tung and be the baby’s second father. In the final parting scene, as Wai-Tung’s parents prepare to fly home, Mrs. Gao has forged an emotional bond to daughter-in-law Wei-Wei. Mr. Gao accepts Simon and warmly shakes his hand. In the end, both derive some happiness from the situation, and they walk off to board the aircraft, leaving the unconventional family to sort itself out.

Ang based the first half of the movie on the true story of a friend, Neil Peng.

TWB 5Justice of the Peace: Okay, now you: “I, Wee-Wee…”

Wei-Wei: Wee-Wee.

Justice of the Peace: “… take you, Wai Tung…”

Wei-Wei: Wee-Wee.

Justice of the Peace: Okay. “To be my wedded husband… to have and to hold…”

Wei-Wei: Holding to have, husband, mine…

Justice of the Peace: “… for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer…”

Wei-Wei: Better and richer, no poorer.

Justice of the Peace: “… in sickness and in health, till death do us part.”

Wei-Wei: Till sickness and death.

Justice of the Peace: Groovy. Rings.


TWB 4Simon – “Look at yourself, your parents send you a form in the mail and you practically pee your pants. You know, you are an adult. As a matter of fact, you’re practically middle-aged.”

Wei Wei – “Let’s see, today’s Friday, you are wearing blue Jockey shorts.”

Wai – “Did you understand any of that?”

Simon – “Unfortunately, I think so.”

Wai – “This was your big idea.”

Mrs. Gao – “What do you think?”

Mr. Gao – “She’ll make lots of babies.”

Simon – “How was my performance on the first day?”

Wai – “About a B+. I don’t know, we should have moved you out.”

Simon – “I’ll survive.”

Wai – “Not if Wei Wei keeps cooking.”

Old Chen – “If you don’t let him have this, then you’re an ungrateful son.”

Simon – “I knew it was you.”

Wai – “Come on, I’m in the bathroom. Just like our college days.”

Wai – “Give me a break. You know I can’t drink. I get drunk from beer commercials.”

Mr. Gao – “I watch. I hear. I learn.”

“You’re witnessing the results of 5,000 years of sexual repression”.

Wei Wei: “I thought you told me you could not be aroused by women?”

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From → Film, Sexuality

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