Lulu Wang‘s deeply personal, disarmingly universal story of culture clash and family grief became an indie phenomenon when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year. Based on Wang’s own experiences, The Farewell tells the story of a Chinese family who decides not to tell their grandmother that she has Stage 4 lung cancer, and the Chinese-American granddaughter (Golden Globe winner Awkwafina) who struggles with this decision.
But what about the real grandmother that the story is based on? She never found out the truth, even when Wang first told the story on This American Life in 2016, nor when Wang began shooting her film in her grandmother’s hometown in China. Wang and her family would have liked to keep it that way, but due to Chinese-language reviews published ahead of The Farewell‘s upcoming release in China, Wang’s grandmother found out the truth.
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Writer and director Lulu Wang made a huge splash this year with the Sundance selected indie sensation The Farewell. Though Wang herself didn’t score a nomination for directing from either the Indie Spirit Awards or Golden Globes, the film did, and it’s a fantastic showcase of her talents both on the page and behind the camera. Now she’ll get to flex those skills again with what will presumably be a bigger budget project in the form of an Amazon drama series called The Expatriates. Read More »
The Morning Watch is a recurring feature that highlights a handful of noteworthy videos from around the web. They could be video essays, fanmade productions, featurettes, short films, hilarious sketches, or just anything that has to do with our favorite movies and TV shows.
In this edition, a new edition of Lessons from the Screenplay breaks down how the action of The Matrix allows for the easy unloading of exposition. Plus, writer/director Lulu Wang breaks down the process of rewriting her screenplay for the indie darling The Farewell, and Groundhog Day and Four Weddings and a Funeral star Andie MacDowell looks back at some of her most memorable role over the years. Read More »
Lulu Wang‘s The Farewell tells the story of Billi, a Chinese-American artist who discovers that her grandmother is dying of cancer. Her initial distress intensifies when she realizes that her family has no intention to tell grandma about the diagnosis, although they do schedule a mock wedding so the family can have one big get-together to say goodbye.
In today’s day and age, movies like The Farewell are a miracle. When even movies based on hit franchises can’t get any traction with critics or the box office, The Farewell, which is continuing to expand in theaters this weekend, has found its place as one of the most emotionally powerful films of year. The film has achieved this success despite taking place mostly in a different language, having no explosions or action scenes, and with a cast devoid of household names (beyond Awkwafina, who is excellent here).
I had a chance to watch The Farewell at the Seattle International Film Festival last month and was fortunate enough to chat with Wang afterward. We talked about the style of the film, the challenges of the Chinese-American experience, and how the power of “no” got the film to where it is today.
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One of the most talked about and critically acclaimed films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival (and frequent Audience Award winner at several film festivals since January) is writer/director Lulu Wang’s sophomore feature The Farewell, with Awkwafina in her first starring role.
Based on an incident in her own family (the movie opens with the title care “Based on an actual lie”), The Farewell concerns a Chinese family who discovers that the matriarch, Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen), has terminal cancer and on a few months left to live. In keeping with a Chinese tradition, her family opts not to tell her of the seriousness of her illness, and instead arranges to have most of the extended family members come visit her to say their goodbyes under the guise of a rushed wedding. Awkwafina plays Billi, who moved to America with her parents (Diana Lin and Tzi Ma) when she was very young and thinks keeping the truth from Nai Nai is a mistake, so everyone suggests she not come to visit, lest she spill the beans on the big secret. But she does make the trip, and the film follows Billi’s journey back to the land of her birth, where she can toe the family line or bring her modern, Western sensibilities to the situation.
It’s a remarkable, sometimes very funny, always highly emotional work that is sure to make a great number best-of-the-year lists in 2019 thanks to exceptional performances by both seasoned actors and Wang’s own family members. /Film spoke with Wang recently in Chicago (where The Farewell played to a sold-out crowd at the Chicago Critics Film Festival) to discuss the real-life inspiration behind her film and the importance of using first-time actors in such an emotionally volatile film. The Farewell has a limited release on Friday, July 12, and expands nationwide throughout July.
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(This review originally ran during our coverage of the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. The Farewell hits theaters on July 12, 2019.)
In 2018, rapper and actress Awkwafina broke out in a big way, delivering memorable turns in Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians. Those two particular performances were indeed enjoyable and fun, but they also bordered on schtick – the actress was very much playing characters; individuals that felt cooked up primarily in the minds of screenwriters. In Lulu Wang‘s lovely, melancholy The Farewell, Awkwafina breaks out in a much bigger way with her first major role, creating a wholly realistic character, and revealing a talent for dramatic acting that you may not have realized she possessed. It’s an incredible performance.
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Lulu Wang directed one of the best movies of 2019 – The Farewell. That movie isn’t even officially out yet, but Wang already has her next project lined-up: a sci-fi film called Children of the New World. Going from the indie drama territory of The Farewell to a sci-fi flick seems like a big jump, and that’s exciting. At the same time, Wang says that while this is a sci-fi movie, it’ll still explore the dynamics of family – just like The Farewell.
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After a rapturous reception at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, Lulu Wang‘s The Farewell shot to the top of the most anticipated indies of the year and sold to A24 for a deal estimated between $6 million and $7 million. But it turns out that this wasn’t the only deal that Wang was considering. The filmmaker revealed that a “streaming company” counter-offered A24 with a deal that was “more than double” the amount that the beloved indie distributor was offering. But Wang ultimately turned them down.
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One of the best films from this year’s Sundance Film Festival is arriving in theaters this summer. Lulu Wang‘s The Farewell is an honest, endearing, emotional dramadey featuring Awkwafina proving she can do a lot more than just comedy. The actress delivers a wonderful, and mostly dramatic, performance in this story of a Chinese-American returning to China to be close to her dying grandmother. But there’s a twist: the grandmother is unaware of her own diagnosis. Watch The Farewell trailer below.
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