Eat a Bowl of Tea (1989)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Comedy of Manners, Urban Comedy  |   Release Date - Jul 21, 1989 (USA)  |   Run Time - 102 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Craig Butler

Eat a Bowl of Tea (the title of which is a rather literal translation of a Chinese saying that means "take your medicine") is a charming if uneven entry in director Wayne Wang's films exploring Chinese-American life. Wang is at his best here when capturing the little moments that define character and culture, such as the moment when Mei Oi crosses her eyes to make herself unattractive to her prospective husband, or when she delightedly discovers the joy of a gas-lit stove, or the manner in which Wah Gay swaggers from the new "face" he has gained from his son's procurement of a new bride. Wang is less successful with making some of the big moments work; he cannot totally reconcile the differences in tone which crop up throughout the film, especially after it takes a firm turn toward melodrama about halfway through. This undermines some of the film's effectiveness, but there are enough pleasures from the cast and from the palpable sense of community to make up for this flaw. Victor Wong's carefully calibrated performance creates a character that is as irritating as he is appealing; it finds the humor in the character without making it a caricature. Cora Miao is a strong presence, and Russell Wong is likeable, even if his performance is not as assured and confident as it could be. Although it derails itself occasionally, Eat a Bowl of Tea is largely enjoyable.