Minorities, including (and especially) Asians, have forever tried to find themselves in American movies, struggling to find images that mirror their own lives. Director Justin Lin’s feature film debut Better Luck Tomorrow instantly destroys the monotony of the Caucasian face with its opening shots of Asian faces filling the entirety of the screen. Lin’s upper-middle-class characters are seemingly parentless and struggle with the implications of their racial identities and the soullessness of suburbia. Theirs is a glass prison determined by academic achievement and money, and this is a rare teen movie where the leads are actually smart and ambitious. Lin turns the stereotype of the Asian American geek on its head by taking Ben Manibag (Parry Shen) on a morally corrupt roller coaster ride. Beginning with petty crime, Ben turns to drugs and violence to fill the emptiness caused no doubt by his empty pursuit of the American dream. At times, Lin seems to invite the audience to laugh and seek pleasure in the film’s violence. At a party, Ben and his friends beat the ignorance out of a white teenager; there’s an undeniable and uncomfortable catharsis to this scene but the underlying anger has a way of seeping through the screen. You can feel the moral conflict within these characters and the film itself: the almost irrational nature of these characters’ motives and the misdirected anger of the film. Better Luck Tomorrow is quite shocking and not only because of the occasional brutality seen on screen. It doesn’t offer audiences easy answers familiar to dozens of MTV-style teen comedies. Its rage is problematic but the film itself is a breath of fresh of air.
- MTV Films
- 99 min
- Justin Lin
- Ernesto Foronda, Justin Lin, Fabian Marquez
- Parry Shen, Jason J. Tobin, Sung Kang, Roger Fan, John Cho, Karin Anna Cheung, Jerry Mathers, Aaron Takahashi
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