The Disappearance Of Mrs. Wu – The BRWC Review. By Rudie Obias.
The older we get, the harder it is to take chances—especially if you’ve built a comfortable and secure life for yourself and family. However, when you get older and you have all the time in the world to reflect on your past, you’re willing to take more chances before your number is up. In the movie, The Disappearance of Mrs. Wu, three generations of women learn how to live life and take risks—thanks to love, guidance, family, friends, and tasty dumplings.
Written by Donald Martin, Anna Chi, and Ella Lee and directed by Anna Chi, The Disappearance of Mrs. Wu follows Lily Wu (Lisa Lu), an elderly Chinese woman who isn’t happy with her daughter Mary (Michelle Krusiec) for putting her in a Los Angeles retirement home. It’s her 88th birthday and she wants nothing more than to look through old family photo albums instead of celebrating with her friends and family.
With the help of her best friend Charlotte (Joely Fisher), as well as her granddaughter Emma (Rochelle Ying) and her best friend Karen (Tiffany Wu), Lily plans “Operation Songbird,” an late night escape to go on a road trip to the city Carmel-by-the-Sea to visit the beach she lived on when she first immigrated to the United States many decades ago. Very unhappy and nervous when she discovers the secret road trip, Mary feverishly makes the nearly six-hour drive to find her mother—as Lily, Mary, and Emma try to reconnect after years of bitterness and resentment.
Let’s be clear, The Disappearance of Mrs. Wu is a rough watch. It’s clichéd, drawn out, and cringey with a dense and somewhat convoluted story that feels heavy-handed and stale at times—even at a 98-minute running time. It’s a tough hang. However, at its core, there’s a lot of heart though.
There’s a level of pathos and an emotional punch that Lisa Lu and Michelle Krusiec give this movie. While the material is underwritten, Lu (The Joy Luck Club, The Last Emperor) and Krusiec (The Joy Luck Club, Saving Face) are completely underrated actors who shine. They really do give it enough weight throughout the film to give it some life.
At one point, the character Mary says, “I’m not uptight. I’m Chinese.” This line speaks volumes to the film’s themes and nervous anxiety. It’s a balancing act between Asia’s stoic culture, while it comes in stark contrast to American culture of loud openness. The Disappearance of Mrs. Wu tackles these warring identities, while its character assimilates into their lives in Los Angeles—albeit in a clumsy and mishandled way.
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