Location: Long Island, NY
Directed by Alexander Payne
Written by Alexander Payne
Sandra Oh as Angela Corbis
Ellen Burstyn as Karen Corbis
Jim Carrey as Nick Griffith
Kiefer Sutherland as Derek Corbis
Mia Kirshner as Paula Corbis
Laura Linney as Tracey Corbis
Tagline: "In a family of misfits, she stuck out like a sore thumb"
Synopsis: My name is Chung Mei. But people call me Angela Corbis, because when my mother adopted me from China when I was a little girl, she thought it sounded better. I took on a whole new identity as a white girl trapped in a malnurished Asian girl's body. They were under the impression I was three years old when they adopted me, but I was actually eight. The adoption agency had left out the part about feeding me only once a week.
Mom had already had three kids, Derek, Tracey, and Paula, her "real" kids. Derek was a stone-cold druggy with a girlfriend who always smelled like gasoline and never washed her hair. Tracey was the bookworm, and my favorite because she never bothered anyone. Paula was crazy. I never got to know her very well since we shipped her off to an asylum when I turned ten.
Flash forward to 2008. My dad died from a fatal head injury at the construction site where he works. My mom is so distraught that she developed dissociative amnesia. She couldn't remember anything past the birth of Paula, so she was under the impression that I was her old Chinese housekeeper.
Derek came home for the funeral for the first time in ten years with the gasoline-smelling chick. Tracey was there too, and they released Paula from the asylum to come to her dad's funeral as well. Paula and Derek made a big scene at dinner over his girlfriend's "threatening" glares, mom kept giving me housekeeping tasks, and I felt a strong attraction to Tracey's fiance, Nick...
It all goes downhill from there.
What the Press would say:
There is a new standard for family dramedies with the release of Alexander Payne's "Filial Piety." While the film first gained notoriety for starring the director's ex-wife, its release has proven that marital differences do not transfer over in their professional careers. Sandra Oh (a Golden Globe-winning star from Grey's Anatomy) gives her strongest performance in a film yet, as a relatively sane Chinese woman in a mostly insane white family. Oh delivers her comedic lines with such unwavering clarity and perfect timing that an audience cannot help but be engrossed in her world. In a role that could have been performed in a bland, robotic manner, Oh brings a likeable and humane side to a woman trying to prove just how normal she truly is.
One of the most interesting things about Filial Piety however is the fact that Oh's Angela is not as normal as she wishes. She is no more insane than her mother, played unsurpisingly brilliantly by veteran actress Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore). Burstyn's grief in the movie is also quite ironic due to the fact that it technically doesn't exist. Her grief comes in the form of amnesia, which is something relatively original in the context of the story. Burstyn is huge comic relief and a foil to Oh's character throughout the film because of this.
Lovers Laura Linney and Jim Carrey are knock-outs in their roles. Reuniting years after The Truman Show, the two superstars don't miss a single note with their polar opposite personalities. Linney is an uptight, anal bookworm while Carrey is free-spirited and always inappropriate. Though they have an ill-fated relationship, their lives turn out better by the end of the film because of how they both managed to open the other's eyes to their true selves.
The tension between two TV stars (Kiefer Sutherland from 24 and Mia Kirshner from The L Word) is one of the most hilarious and intense subplots presented in the story. Kirshner is hauntingly and hilariously convincing as a not-so-right in the head polemical sister to tough-guy Sutherland, who displays masculinity and disregard for others with ease.
Filial Piety is not without an underlying theme. Amidst the craziness and drama brought about by a day full of forgotten memories, family affairs, and sibling rivalry, Oh's character learns a vital lesson that hits home to all audiences. She learns that no matter how different she may be from her family (in appearance, background, and personality), love always transcends the less appealing factors. In spite of what a person may come to believe, family is the only shred of normalcy that a person can seek in the world.
Filial Piety is a winner. Knock-out Sandra Oh, with strong support from her co-stars, helps to create a cast of memorable characters and an original, twisty story with a heart-filled message. This year, the feel-good movie comes in the form of embarrassing family moments that all of us can relate to.
For Your Consideration:
Best Director - Alexander Payne
Best Original Screenplay
Best Actress - Sandra Oh
Best Supporting Actress - Ellen Burstyn
Best Supporting Actress - Mia Kirshner
Best Supporting Actress - Laura Linney
Best Supporting Actor - Kiefer Sutherland
Best Supporting Actor - Jim Carrey