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Since I saw last year’s terrific The Farewell, I’m keen for Chinese-American movies. Lucky Grandma, set in New York’s vibrant Chinatown, is a quirky hybrid – it begins as a biting comedy, gets waylaid by unnecessary violence, then saves itself with self-sacrifice. Young femme director/co-writer Sasie Sealy delivers an exciting feature debut that does indeed bear resemblance to the work of our shared favorite filmmaker, Bong Joon Ho (Snowpiercer 2013, Parasite 2019).

Recent widow 80-year old Grandma Wong (the celebrated Tsai Chin) is a bitter, chain-smoking curmudgeon, who is determined to live on her own without help from her loving son and his family. A fortune teller convinces her she has auspicious days ahead. Grandma withdraws her life savings and boards the Lucky Bus (“no spitting, no gossiping”) to Atlantic City. Lo and behold the Roulette Wheel bestows a huge fortune – alas, Poker takes it all away.

On the ride home, a duffel bag full of cash falls into Grandma’s lap. Hurray, Good luck again, you think! Ah, but let us not forget that Fate gives and Fate takes it away—so it’s not unexpected, when nasty gangsters track Grandma down and demand the money.

From a competing gang, Grandma hires a body guard, who turns out to be a sweet, tubby giant named Big Pong (Hsiao-Yuan Ha). Nothing’s funny anymore, though, as the odd couple is caught up in gang wars. Even a lethal curling iron can’t protect them. Will Luck intervene? Can they can be saved by the enigmatic crime boss, Sister Fong (Yan Xi), who bears an uncanny mist-enshrouded resemblance to the goddess Kuan Yin?

Lucky Grandma opens on virtual cinema (such as the Fine Arts in Asheville NC) on May 22, 2020. The usual digital platforms follow.

Length: 87 minutes

Languages: Cantonese, Mandarin, English. Easy-to-read English subtitles.

on street grandma.jpeg


Edited by Marcianne Miller
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