The second annual 20th anniversary New York Asian Film Festival takes place from July 15 to July 31. For more informations on lineup and screenings, click here
You know what this film is?
This film is nice.
That’s not so much a value judgment, as just a simple statement of fact: it’s a nice film, full of mostly nice, well-intentioned people. It’s not a hardship spending two hours with them, even if twenty or thirty minutes less than that would have also been fine.
My Best Friend’s Breakfast is a hard movie to dislike. And that’s not the backhanded compliment it might sound like, because this is a type of movie that by and large, I tend not to like.
No, that’s not quite it…. better to say it’s the type of movie that just… isn’t for me. It is, for all intents and purposes, a teen romance. And there are few things less interesting to me than the lives of teens. So when I say that this movie was nice and a relatively pleasant watch, it’s kind of the equivalent of a rave from me.
In the aftermath of her parents acrimonious divorce, a very young Wei-Xin develops the coping mechanism of compulsive eating, a habit that follows her to high school, where she is rarely seen without a snack of some kind. When she finds herself a few cents short of being able to afford a pineapple bun You Quan (Eric Chau), the boy in line behind her, gallantly lends her the money. Its a random act of kindness she quickly pays back by… claiming he’s being hounded by her friend when she stumbles upon him arguing with his adulterous soon to be ex-girlfriend.
Not entirely sure why she thought that was a good idea, but then again… I’m old.
And clearly I’m also wrong, because after a mild fit of annoyance, he tracks her down to thank her for convincing him the breakup was for the best.
She’s smitten, he’s oblivious, and things carry on from there.
The core of the movie is, let’s face it, rather silly; a secret admirer is sending lunch to Qi Ran every day (which Wei-Xin dutifully eats), and wires get crossed in a very farcial sort of way where everybody thinks somebody likes someone else, and… well, it’s all very young, isn’t it…?
But there’s a very real sense in which the airiness and low stakes of the whole endeavor carries a certain amount of charm. And it helps that the movie is utterly without villains; there are no mean girls or bully boys… the true thing keeping most of these couples apart are their own insecurities, their fear of hurting others, and their inability to admit what they really want, even to themselves.
(Another thing I appreciated; some people in the movie just get their hearts broken. There’s not that typical romantic comedy thing of a rejected suitor winding up with some fallback partner who’d been waiting in the wings the whole time; the film presents the sad truth that sometimes it’s just friendship, and that’s okay)
The film rests heavy on the shoulders of Moon Lee (not that Moon Lee, this Moon Lee), who definitely captures that awkward, anxious phase with remarkable clarity, and manages not to look disgusting while stuffing her face in literally every other scene.
First time actor Eric Chou, aside from a doesn’t even rise to the level of B-plot runner regarding his strained relationship with his grandmother, doesn’t get as much to do as Lee, but he’s handsome and nice and that’s pretty much all he needs to be here.
The entire cast is good, but it has to be said a bum note is struck in the character of Wei Xin’s mother, well-played by Esther Liu, but written with such a vicious resentment towards her ex that it strikes a discordant note with the otherwise benign and open-hearted nature of all the other characters. That said, her facial expressions carry a more conflicted read than the script allows her, and her final, silent scene with Wei Xin’s father is nicely melancholy, sweet and ambiguous.
Writer-director Ryan Tu really does gloss up the proceedings, adding a heightened sheen to the visuals. It’s arguable whether all the gimmicks they throw in work (I feel like having both the voice over and the visits from several alternate versions of herself from 15 years in the future is probably a bit much), but it, as well as the generally good performances, make it an easy sit, if still entirely too long for its airy nature.
In the end, perhaps the best thing I can say about My Best Friend’s Breakfast is that it’s a teen movie that avoids most of the pitfalls that make it a genre that leaves me cold. It’s not really my thing, but I don’t regret having watched it, and for people with a higher tolerance for the foibles of the youth set than myself, it’s almost certainly a movie worth seeking out.