Double Happiness (1994)

Double Happiness (1994)

Sandra Oh announced herself with a starring role in this irresistibly charming and frank indie

The Very Best

8.3

Movie

Canada
Cantonese, English
Comedy, Drama, Romance
1994
FEMALE DIRECTOR, MINA SHUM
Alannah Ong, Callum Keith Rennie, Donald Fong
87 min

TLDR

Sandra Oh really just came out of the gate swinging like this.

What it's about

A young Chinese-Canadian woman struggles to balance her own desires with the strict expectations of her father.

The take

Sandra Oh earned her breakout in this warm, candid Canadian indie, which — not uncoincidentally — shares its name with that of a decorative Chinese symbol associated with marriage. The movie’s title is also a reference to 22-year-old Jade Li’s (Oh) struggle to pursue her own ambitions and meet the clashing romantic and professional expectations her disapproving first-generation immigrant parents have for her. As she puts it, “Double happiness is when you make yourself happy and everyone else happy, too.”

An aspiring actress who dreams of playing Blanche DuBois, Jade is instead asked by unimaginative casting directors to adopt a pronounced Chinese accent for tiny bit parts. In essence, she’s typecast everywhere: on set, and at home, where she struggles to play the good daughter who’ll give up acting for a more conventional job and will only marry a man her parents approve of. It’s a jarring existence, but Double Happiness never feels claustrophobic because it gives Jade the freedom to finally be herself via witty, confessional monologues and fantasy sequences. There’s undoubtedly bittersweetness to this portrait of a young woman fighting to be herself on every front, but that it's nevertheless such an irresistibly charming, never-flippant watch is a testament to first-time director Mina Shum and Oh’s already mature talents.

What stands out

An instantly charming presence, Sandra Oh is a huge part of why the movie pulls off its deft tonal balance between sincerity and humor, especially in scenes where she wryly makes fun of people’s perceptions of her (like when she meets a guy who assumes she can’t speak English, and coyly plays up to the part before revealing the truth). Oh sparkles in the film's fourth-wall-breaking monologue sequences, which makes for a moving contrast with the movie’s real-world scenes, in which Jade appears shrunken by all the pressure put on her shoulders. It’s no wonder her work here won her Canada’s Oscar (a Genie Award) for Best Actress — a pretty incredible achievement for a first feature role.

Comments

Add a comment

UP NEXT 

UP NEXT 

UP NEXT 

End of the Century (2019)

A quietly devastating queer romance that does everything with softness and sensitivity

8.5

The Zone of Interest (2023)

A chilling and masterful display of the banality of evil

9.5

The Legend of Hei (2019)

A cat spirit learns about harmony in this Chinese animated fantasy drama

7.0

Night of the Kings (2021)

A theatrical and truly original fantasy drama from Ivory Coast

7.6

Youth (Spring) (2023)

A terrific three-hour documentary that explores what young Chinese factory workers do in and out of work

7.8

Einstein and the Bomb (2024)

A dramatized depiction of Einstein’s own words against Nazism

6.0

Forgotten Love (2023)

The stunning third take of the classic Polish pre-war melodrama

7.7

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)

A star-studded and riveting legal drama with a blockbuster feel.

8.1

Kill Me If You Dare (2024)

Money pushes a marriage to the edge in this lazily assembled Netflix remake

3.5

The Guilty (2018)

A minimalist, razor-sharp thriller that will have you gasping for air.

9.0

Curated by humans, not algorithms.

agmtw logo

© 2024 agoodmovietowatch, all rights reserved.