TRANSCRIPT: Retro Reviewing: “Saving Face”

Episode Transcribed by GustavChristoff

Danielle: Hi, welcome to our 15th episode of Retro Reviewing.

Katie: Hi guys.

Denae: Hello.

Danielle: We are very excited to bring you a very special episode with special guest stars, the Good Asian Drivers.

Rina: Wooo! They rock by the way; you’ve got to check them out.

Katie: Yes, they do.

Danielle: If you guys want to talk a little bit about what you do…

Melissa: Sure, my name is Melissa Li. I’m a singer-songwriter.

Kit: And my name is Kit Yan and I’m a slam poet.

Melissa: And we travel around, all across the country. We most recently came back from a driving tour which was like a 12-week tour around the United States. We played in, like, in over twenty cities in over thirty states.

Kit: International superstars. We were, in Vancouver, too.

Katie: Wow, you’re famous in Canada? That’s big time.

Melissa: We’re very famous in Canada.

Kit: Very famous, thank you.

Rina: Well, you’re famous on YouTube with your little I Kissed a Girl video.

Danielle: Check that out.

Rina: You’ve got to check it out.

Kit: Yes, we also make video spoofs because we get bored and have nothing better to do.

Denae: Well, you’re in the right place.

Melissa: The mission is queer Asian visibility in the United States, which is lacking.

Danielle: That’s true.

Melissa: You know, especially in areas, like, we were performing in Billings, Montana, where there’s like–

Rina: Oh God.

Melissa: Where there’s like one gay bar, and like no Asians, so, you know, that’s sort of like our mission is to tell them, “Hey, we’re alive, we’re here.”

Danielle: We’re alive.

Denae: We’re real, we exist.

Kit: And also, like Melissa always says, in the mainstream media, if you want to see your faces represented, just stick them in there.

Melissa: That’s right.

Kit: Put your head into the video.

Melissa: Put yourself in the video.

Denae: Find the local news camera.

Katie: That’s the greatest thing I’ve ever heard.

Denae: “Hey, I’m gay.”

Danielle: It is; that’s a very good philosophy.

Rina: Visibility is important.

Danielle: Well, that’s AfterEllen’s mission, “Visibility Matters”, so you fit right in, perfect.

Kit: That’s right.

Danielle: So, Saving Face, we’ll go right into our review here, Saving Face is a 2004 film; I hope I’m getting that right.

Katie: Yeah, it is.

Danielle: Okay, yeah, it’s from first-time director Alice Wu. And it is basically about two women, two Chinese-American women, who are basically dealing with the difficulties of dealing with their culture and being gay basically, and falling in love with one another and dealing with family pressure.

Rina: Oh, and also the mother is pregnant.

Katie: Preggers!

Denae: Oh yeah.

Rina: So I don’t know if it’s necessarily about their love story or also about the mom.

Danielle: Yeah, it’s also about the mother, I guess, uh delving into non-traditional love, I guess. You know, within like the core family unit.

Rina: Right, and going outside the culture and, you know, this woman gets pregnant, and then when her daughter comes out to her, it’s like “Oh, well, I’m pregnant and I’m 48, so I guess I have to accept you.”

Danielle: Our two main characters, well, the two younger women who fall in love, are Will, and she’s a surgeon in a, I guess, a local hospital. It takes place in New York.

Rina: Very attractive surgeon.

Danielle: She is a very attractive surgeon, but she’s also a little more unsure of herself than Vivian who is a very talented dancer.

Katie: Hot, very very hot.

Rina: Dancers, surgeons, they’re all hot.

Danielle: Absolutely. And there’s a lot of conflict there because Will doesn’t want to go public, you know, basically public with their affair–not their affair.

Denae: Their relationship.

Danielle: Their love, their relationship, yeah, and Vivian wants to be out and proud, and can speak freely with her mother and talk about their relationship, but Will doesn’t. She doesn’t have that, so it’s kind of like that central conflict that a lot of relationships have.

Rina: But it’s also the mother is just a very traditional woman.

Danielle: Absolutely.

Rina: So, you know, just, just coming out to her would be difficult so–

Danielle: So that’s sort of the basic story. So let’s get into, as always, our good bad and ugly. We’ll start with the good. What was good? Open up the floor.

Melissa: I think, well, first of all, I have to say that I think that, you know, it’s very rare in these sorts of, like, lesbian romances that there’s so many layers. I think it’s really great that all the characters are really well rounded and they have so many facets to them, and they all have expectations, and they have things that they want, and like, things that they love, and things that they’re doing because of one reason or, you know, another that they may not necessarily want. So there’s a lot of push and pull in that, and I think that’s what’s like really great, and really genuine and honest about this film. So like, that’s definitely a good.

Rina: That’s true, there is kind of a lot. And like, it’s true, you know, there is this gay story in it. It’s not really. Really, the center I feel is that the mother’s pregnant, and I feel, well I feel like the whole movie I was like, “Who is the father? Who is the father?” That kind of, like, drives the movie rather than will she come out? I don’t know, so, it’s kind of layered.

Danielle: Yeah, they’re definitely both working sort of in tandem. Almost like commenting, you know, almost like each storyline is commenting on each other. Like basically, how difficult it is to basically be who you are without fitting into the traditional role. So, I mean, I thought that was kind of cool the both of them.

Kit: I also think that it’s a whole lot about mother-daughter, parent-child, and I was watching it and I was like, this is a lot like my life as an Asian-American, trying to just speak to your parents about anything related to your life, I mean, sex, relationships…

Rina: Or could you imagine your mother moving in with you?

Kit: Definitely not, that’s not okay.

Rina: Well, I mean, my mom, my mother is very Hispanic, very Jewish, and, and she’s very traditional in a lot of ways. And I think if my mother moved in with me, I, it would be very weird. Like I don’t know how I would deal with her, and I feel like that’s the same kind of, like I kind of related to that aspect of it. Like, oh my God, if my mother moved in with me, I would be in trouble. Like I would have to hide aspects of my life, like how would I balance the two? It would be very difficult.

Danielle: Yeah, I think Will’s character is really easy to relate to from almost any background, you know, just like having difficulty coming out, and having difficulty coming out to a really traditional family, and just that whole process sort of, you know, that I feel like almost anyone can relate to.

Denae: I think because, you know, family in people is such an ingrained thing, like, it’s like the core of your identity. The family’s the core of your identity but then also, being, you know, a lesbian or being in love with a woman is also a big core of your identity. So it’s like a real power struggle trying to, trying to balance the two.

Rina: And also like that whole circle of, you know, like the traditional, like, Asian, they had like the, little dinners.

Katie: Every Friday, and her mom would set her up with a guy every Friday.

Melissa [as some lady]: What a scandal, disgrace.

Kit [as some guy]: Ew, did you know that Melissa is a lesbian?

Melissa [as some lady]: Oh my God, I found out that Kit [whispers] is a tranny.

Kit [as some guy]: I heard those Good Asian Drivers got a speeding ticket in upstate New York, hypocrites.

Melissa [as some lady]: Kit can’t even speak Chinese.

Kit [as some guy]: I heard Melissa’s been around the block a few times, if you know what I mean.

Melissa [as some lady]: Someone who knows someone else who knows my cousin said that Kit once got two out of a ten on a poetry slam.

Kit [as some guy]: And who is the real father of Melissa’s unborn child? It’s certainly not me.

Melissa [as some lady]: I heard Kit is dating Sarah Palin.

Melissa: The ballroom dancing scene, it really reflects our culture too, you know, the title, Saving Face is very important, you know, the way that other people think about us, and your family. The ideas of, like, shame and dishonor is, like, very strong in our community. So I thought that was like, really, it was just really honest.

Kit: Yeah, even like trying to, introduce a partner, whether they’re, like, male or female in Asian culture, like, she’s trying to introduce Vivian who’s an artist. That’s like so, so, they’re not going to throw you a party.

Kit: Yeah.

Rina: “She does what exactly?” Oh yeah, there’s that scene where the mom is with the daughter and she’s like “So, what does she do?” “Oh, I’m in ballet, but not exactly.”

Kit: Right, right.

Rina: “Not in ballet, like in modern art.” And it’s like “Oh, she’s not in ballet.”

Kit: Yeah.

Danielle: I really like the production values–I think [they] were amazing for, like, a low budget film. From what I understand, it was a fairly, it was two and a half million or something like that, and that’s really low for a feature film.

Katie: And this is the first time she’s directed.

Danielle: Yeah, first time director.

Katie: I think it’s amazing how well she did when it’s her first time she’s directed anything.

Danielle: She did a fantastic job. And the acting was done really well, I think it was really nuanced and really well done.

Kit: Especially the older characters.

Danielle: Yes, because you don’t always see that.

Katie: I think the mom was really really good.

Rina: I love that she was with a younger man though, that was awesome.

Katie: There’s no way she’s 48, she looks so good for 48.

Melissa: She’s probably actually older; I’ll bet you she’s a lot older in real life.

Katie: No! Really? She is hot.

Danielle: We have to look this up.

Rina: Oh my God, it’s Carol!

Katie: Woo hoo!

Kit: Yaay.

Danielle: I know, okay, everybody, so, so guess who came to join us, it’s Caroline from, you know, from our special Retro Reviewing.

Rina: We know a lot of people have been asking about her.

Carol: It was a long, long vacation.

Danielle: It’s been a long summer, but she’s back.

Katie: With her notes.

Rina: She’s back with her notes.

Carol: I reviewed.

Danielle: She’s got the notes. So why don’t you give us some good, because…

Carol: Oh, you guys are on the goods already? I love the dynamic between the relationships between father and daughter, um, as well as the mother and daughter, and so it, I definitely, I see the span it has on three generations.

Melissa [as Will]: What about this one? It’s sexy.

Kit [as Ma]: [dubbed over Chinese from the movie]

Melissa [as Will]: Ma, you’re only 48, Connie Chung’s sexy, and she must be nearly 60.

Kit [as Ma]: [dubbed over Chinese from the movie]

Melissa [as Will]: No he’s Chinese, he’s nice. Very healthy.

Kit [as Ma]: [dubbed over Chinese from the movie]

Melissa [as Will]: Okay, you can just wear that then.

Kit [as Ma]: [dubbed over Chinese from the movie]

Melissa [as Will]: It’ll be fun.

Kit [as Ma]: [dubbed over Chinese from the movie]

Melissa [as Will]: Alright, forget it.

Kit [as Ma]: [dubbed over Chinese from the movie]

Melissa [as Will]: Ma, it’s okay, we have enough time. This is not too bad. You just have to take your hair down.

Kit [as Ma]: [dubbed over Chinese from the movie]

Melissa [as Will]: Ma, you’re beautiful.

Carol: Um, I’m all for this movie, so I don’t have any bads.

Danielle: It’s all good?

Carol: Yeah, except for what, uh, just the ending, but that could be a segue right into–

Danielle: Right into the bad?

Rina: Oh, you didn’t like the ending?

Carol: I didn’t like the ending.

Danielle: We’re doing bad.

Katie: They get together in the end.

Carol: Well, they do, but it was just so corny.

Denae: You just want to keep it real.

Rina: Ohh, I thought it was adorable.

Katie: But they’re in love.

Kit: Aww, but it’s so cute.

Rina: I loved it, I felt like it was really brave of them.

Carol: It was the dialogue; it really falls on the dialogue. What they, oh, what do they say? They end up together, and they’re dancing and they look around and it’s like–

Rina: See, I really liked the ending. I thought it was really cute. It was very brave of them to just dance, you know, in this place where, like, people were just looking, people were leaving. But it was cool because, you know, it was like, some people stayed, so it was kind of like, you know, some people are not going to like us and–

Denae: Some will.

Rina: Some people will, and you know what? Who cares? You know, and that was very empowering I thought. So, I really liked the ending.

Carol: There were balloons that came out of nowhere.

Rina: There were balloons that came out of nowhere?

Melissa: There were balloons that came out of nowhere.

Carol: They just floated into the camera.

Rina: Are you serious? See? I didn’t notice this. Just the balloons.

Carol: There were a few things about the ending that–

Katie: You just didn’t like it because of the balloons.

Danielle: She has a balloon problem here.

Rina: It didn’t matter that they were making a statement about empowerment, man, there was balloons in the scene.

Denae: That’s the symbol of their acceptance into the sky.

Danielle: That’s good, Denae.

Denae: I don’t know, that’s deep; I try to take it there.

Carol: It’s too deep for me.

Denae: Or maybe it was just a balloon, I’m not sure. One of the two.

Danielle: Maybe it was just a metaphor, it’s like Go Fish, is this a metaphor for something deeper?

Katie: Don’t even bring back Go Fish.

Rina: See this just goes to show how important Go Fish is. We’ll talk about it in every episode.

Danielle: I know. I think it’s about time we rate the sex scene, actually, here we go.

Denae: With our expert.

Katie: So I’m coming off Bound, so I might be a little more critical than usual because Bound was the best sex scene ever! However, I thought this sex scene was really good. I thought it was well done, and it was also funny because the mom calls in the middle of the sex scene and leaves a message as they’re like, doing it. So add a little humor to the sex scene.

Danielle: I love it when that happens.

Katie: But I also thought it was very sexy, but there was only one sex scene, and you know how I feel about that.

Rina: What did you guys think of the sex scene?

Kit: I thought it was really funny, because, like when the mom calls, that’s totally what would happen, in your life.

Denae: It’s real.

Rina: It’s a real moment.

Kit: And it’s coming off, like, she’s finally like, oh I’m going to stay the night, because that’s a big deal, you know. And so, she’s staying the night, and she’s trying to get it on, and like the mom calls and like, it, I think for Asians, it’s even more, like, more taboo to talk about sex with your parents, it’s like a very closed culture of people who don’t talk about those kinds of things, and so Vivian is like the artist, the rebel, she talks to her mom about sex, you know, and Wilhelmina’s like “Oh my God, you do that?” It’s like, it’s really real.

Denae: So when your mom calls, it really puts a damper on it.

Rina: Oh, I thought it was interesting, like, we didn’t mention it. How the mom rented porn, did she rent porn?

Danielle: She did, she did rent porn.

Rina: What’s that all about? That was a weird scene, I mean there’s nothing wrong with porn, but it was a really strange scene, I don’t know what to say.

Danielle: Well, it was a really strange scene because she’s getting so into it. She’s so quiet, and she’s getting up to the screen, and she hears the door and is like changes the thing, and is like “Oh, I was watching my soap opera.”

Melissa: Golf, they’re watching golf.

Carol: Infomercial.

Melissa: Golf infomercial, right.

Danielle: Oh, yeah, that’s right, I forgot about that.

Melissa: She’s like focused on it.

Danielle: She’s like “Wow, this is a really great commercial.”

Rina: But it was a great sort of statement on, like, even people who are very traditional in their ways, you know, they still want to explore.

Danielle: Everyone’s horny.

Rina: That’s right, everyone want to, everyone’s a human you know.

Melissa: I think that scene is really nice, because she had this little secret, and the daughter had come in from just being with Vivian, and they both sat there focused on the infomercial.

Carol: Eating Chinese food.

Melissa: But it was just that they were both very nervous.

Rina: I have a bad, actually.

Danielle: Okay, so let’s, let’s go to the bad here, right and proper.

Rina: I have a little bit of a bad. I don’t know if how they met Vivian, how it was a little–Vivian and Will? Is that what her name?

Danielle: Yeah.

Rina: I didn’t like the way they met, like–

Katie: In a doctor’s, in a hospital?

Rina: Well, and leave a note on a vending machine, and like, you’re supposed to know that this woman, like, wants to hook up with you?

Denae: Isn’t it obvious?

Kit: I would have stolen it and bought a candy bar if I had seen it before her, it’s a bit unrealistic.

Rina: But it’s like, what makes you think it’s the same person, like oh, somebody left the note on the vending machine, like–

Danielle: It must be her.

Rina: It’s weird.

Katie: I agree with that.

Rina: It’s a weird, unrealistic way of two couples, of like a couple getting together.

Carol: It could happen, though.

Denae: Stranger things have happened.

Katie: Really people.

Rina: This is true.

Katie: They didn’t have good gaydar, doot doot doot doot.

Denae:: If you want a Milky Way.

Danielle: Yeah, like it’s a code or something, I’ll have the Milky Way.

Denae: Yeah exactly.

Danielle: That’s how you know.

Denae: Yeah exactly, it’s like what kind of candy bar do you get? It’s not like they drop down hints like “Do you like Melissa Etheridge?”

Danielle: So how about that L Word episode?

Denae: I know, that’s how you feel it out, not at the vending machine with the Milky Way.

Kit: I’ve got another bad.

Danielle: Go for it.

Kit: Well, okay, I’m going to put my Asian-American tranny perspective into this.

Denae: Put it out there.

Kit: Well, you know this, well for those of you who don’t know, I talk a lot about trans stuff in our work, too, right? So as an Asian-American who lived most of my life as female, partially as lesbian, and now as male, the portrayal of all of the women characters in Saving Face was kind of strong. I don’t know. I didn’t find it to be as well-rounded as it could have been.

Melissa: What do you mean strong?

Kit: Like there are many women characters in it, and it’s mostly a story that has women-driven minds, so, you know, there’s a lot of dragon lady, and a lot of reinforcing of the stereotypes in it, and, do you not agree?

Melissa: I don’t agree with it, no, because I don’t think the grandmother is like that.

Kit: Oh, that’s true, I forgot about the grandma.

Melissa: I don’t think. The idea is that Greek chorus, and they’re all catty and blah blah blah blah blah, but really they just talk, they just gossip, and that’s really the, you know, traditional sort of, a Greek tragedy/comedy there’s the chorus that just like babbles. And a lot of people in our community are like that, and I think it’s very honest, but I don’t think, I mean, the mother’s not like that, and the grandmother’s definitely not like that, and our, our main characters’ not like that. So I’m going to have to say I don’t agree.

Kit: Well, we’re just going to have to agree to disagree.

Rina: Gay magic scale.

Danielle: I think it’s time for our ratings on the gay magical scale.

Denae: I love that we always have to do this.

Katie: I like doing this.

Danielle: This is our little rainbow, gay magic.

Rina: Eventually we’re just going to have little wands of gay magic.

Denae: Wands.

Danielle: When the budget increases, we’ll have to have little special effects.

Denae: Dress up as Tinker Bell.

Danielle: Somebody will fly across the screen. As is, it’ll be one of us, it wouldn’t look that great.

Melissa: 4.7 gay magical scale.

Danielle: Very nice, that’s a lot of gay magic.

Melissa: It’s a lot of gay magic.

Rina: And why do you think?

Melissa: It’s a gay magical movie. That’s it.

Kit: That’s all there is to it.

Danielle: That’s a pretty good description of it.

Denae: We all know what that means.

Danielle: Exactly.

Kit: I’m going to have to say; it is, like, the best lesbian or queer movie I’ve ever seen.

Danielle: That’s a big deal.

Kit: So I’m going to put it at the top, I’m going to give it a five.

Danielle: We clap for fives.

Katie: Fives don’t come out that often.

Rina: Wooo, gay magic.

Danielle: Okay, well I’m going to give it a 4.75 just for the same reasons we’ve been talking about all day here, you know, it’s just such a good representation, a more or less accurate representation, and it’s good, and it’s well done, and did we mention that Will Smith is a producer?

Denae: We didn’t.

Rina: Oh, no we didn’t!

Danielle: I just think that’s funny. Just a fun, little random fun fact. And for a first time director to pull something together that is well done, well acted, you know, really is groundbreaking in its representation–that gets respect from me.

Denae: And help from Will Smith.

Danielle: Exactly, you got Will Smith to help produce your movie.

Denae: It’s a big deal.

Danielle: You, you know what you’re doing, Alice Wu.

Denae: Are, are we going up here, and then around?

Danielle: You can go up there.

Denae: I’ll say a 4.5. I really liked it. I think, um I was really, I think it’s important that they show the complexities of life, you know? There’s so many movies nowadays, maybe not lesbian movies as much, but there’s so many movies where it’s just like “Oh, every thing’s great, I’m in love, the end.” And drive off into the sunset, and I like that, it’s true, that, I mean, people have complex lives, and it’s real, they’re keeping it real, you know, and I think that the whole saving face, you know, that both of the mother and the daughter had these issues going on, and they didn’t want to show the other. It’s, you know, it’s honest, and I love honesty. It’s the best policy. If you didn’t know that, it’s true.

Katie: That’s such a cheesy line.

Denae: I know, I’m so deep, write that down.

Kit: Is this going on a dating website I don’t know about?

Denae: It is.

Danielle: Totally.

Katie: It’s how we get the women.

Danielle: How we get the ladies.

Rina: Oh, yeah, we get lady friends like this.

Danielle: Alright, Katie?

Katie: I’m going to give it a 4.25. I really enjoyed the movie and what we commented on before. I really like the lesbian storyline, however, I thought that the mother’s storyline was actually better, and I thought that she acted it really well, and I’m going to agree with Danielle, the fact that Alice, that this was the first time she ever directed a movie, and I think that’s absolutely amazing. It came out really well, and I give her props for that.

Danielle: Carol.

Carol: I was teetering on 4.75. But, because Alice Wu is from and was born and raised in San Jose, California. Hometown.

Rina: That gets extra points.

Carol: Five stars, five stars.

Danielle: Woo! Five stars.

Rina: She popped her five star cherry.

Danielle: Yes she did.

Carol: It really brings, uh, it shows the line between, uh, I guess old fashioned versus modern, and also, just the fact that, yeah, the storyline. Looking at the dynamics between the mother and daughter, and the emphasis on it is just, I could totally relate to the storyline which made it a lot easier to understand and just follow the movie. Also, um, what else? The music was beautiful. I don’t know why, but every time I watch a lesbian movie, I always download–

Denae: The music, me too, yeah.

Carol: The music, so yeah, um. It compares to one of my favorite directors, Ang Lee, and so it just shows a lot of his earlier work, so, Eat Drink Man Woman and The Wedding Banquet. So I think Alice Wu did a fabulous job.

Danielle: Alright, Rina.

Rina: I know, I’m going to be the lowest one of all, but that’s okay. Okay I’m going to give it a four because I think it’s a very important film, um, I think the love story, I don’t know.

Carol: You hated the ending right?

Rina: No, I liked the ending, it was just, but how they met.

Melissa: You didn’t like the vending machine.

Rina: I just don’t think it was very realistic. I was like, where do you meet a girl on a vending machine, I don’t know. So that was the only thing, the love story, I think they could have met in a different way than they met. I don’t know, it just didn’t feel very complete to me. But it is a very important film because, you know, it had an Asian and lesbian couple, and I liked the cultural stuff that was going on. Also I related very much to the mother-daughter thing, I totally related to that, but yeah, I think it’s a very important film. I didn’t give it a five, or higher because I, just vending machine love story, I don’t know! I can’t seem to buy it.

Denae: Don’t try to pick up Rina at a vending machine.

Rina: No, don’t. I’ll be like “Did you see Saving Face?” No, it’s not a good idea.

Danielle: She’s had a bad experience in the past with a vending machine, I don’t know.

Rina: Alright, if any AfterEllen vloggers have met a woman on a vending machine, please let me know, because maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this actually happens, I don’t know.

Denae: Write in.

Kit: Vending machines are cheap, like 50 cents.

Carol: You know I really think the back story is, like how they met is through the cousin, because isn’t that Vivian’s cousin?

Kit: At the dance?

Danielle: They met when they were little kids didn’t they?

Rina: And she gave her a kiss.

Carol: And she was wearing a Kristy McNichol.

Katie: Oh, was she?

Carol: Yeah.

Danielle: And didn’t she have a page boy or something?

Carol: A page boy, yeah.

Danielle: There was this whole thing. That was really cute. Anyway, oh my God, thank you guys.

Kit: Thanks for having us.

Rina: They are amazing; you have to check them out.

Danielle: If you haven’t, check them out.

Rina: And aren’t you guys still on tour?

Melissa: Yeah, we’re still on tour.

Kit: Still on tour, yes.

Rina: So you guys can catch them on cities, so check out their websites you can find out where they’re at and go check out their shows.

Danielle:, am I right about that?

Melissa: Yep.

Kit: Absolutely.

Danielle: Absolutely. Okay, awesome. So next time we’re probably going to do a very retro Retro film. We’re thinking of Desert Hearts.

Denae: Oh my God.

Melissa: That is retro.

Rina: So we know that it’s time, we know you guys have been waiting for Desert Hearts.

Danielle: It’s time to go way back.

Denae: We’re bringing it back.

Danielle: Way, way, like 20 years or so from this film, so awesome, catch us next time, and please give us comments and please check out, and see you next time.

All: Bye.

Melissa: Uuuhh, uuhhh, euuuh

Kit: Is that what you’re going to eat?

Melissa: Yeah.

Kit: You really should eat better. Mmm, how about this? It’s packed with protein, you know, sometimes your body really knows what it wants. See you around.

Watch the episode here.