The Wedding Banquet
|The Wedding Banquet|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ang Lee|
|Produced by||Ang Lee
|Written by||Ang Lee
|Edited by||Tim Squyres|
|Distributed by||The Samuel Goldwyn Company|
The Wedding Banquet (Chinese: 喜宴; pinyin: Xǐyàn; Wade–Giles: Hsi yen) is a 1993 film about a gay Taiwanese immigrant man who marries a mainland Chinese woman to placate his parents and get her a green card. His plan backfires when his parents arrive in the United States to plan his wedding banquet.
The film was directed by Ang Lee and stars Winston Chao, May Chin, Kuei Ya-lei, Sihung Lung, and Mitchell Lichtenstein. The Wedding Banquet is the first of three movies that Ang Lee made featuring gay characters; the second is Brokeback Mountain and the third is Taking Woodstock. The film is a co-production between Taiwan and the United States.
Together with Pushing Hands and Eat Drink Man Woman, all made in Taiwan, all showing the Confucian family at risk, and all starring the Taiwanese actor Sihung Lung, it forms what has been called Lee's "Father Knows Best" trilogy.
Wai-Tung Gao and Simon are a happy gay couple living in Manhattan. Wai-Tung is in his late 20s, so his tradition-minded parents are eager to see him get married and have a child in order to continue the family line. The early part of the film is madcap comedy. When Wai-Tung's parents hire a dating service, he and Simon stall for time by inventing impossible demands. They demand an opera singer and add that she must be 5'9" have two PhD's and speak five languages. The service actually locates a 5'8" Chinese woman who sings Western opera, speaks five languages and has a single PhD. She is very gracious when Wai-Tung explains his dilemma, as she, too, is hiding a relationship (with a Caucasian man). At Simon's insistence, Wai-Tung decides to marry one of his tenants, Wei-Wei, a penniless artist from mainland China in need of a green card. Besides helping Wei-Wei, Simon and Wai-Tung hope that this will placate Wai-Tung's parents.
Mr. and Mrs. Gao announce they will visit from Taiwan, bringing US$30,000 to hold an extravagant wedding for their son. Wai-Tung dares not tell his parents the truth, because his father, a retired officer in the Chinese Nationalist Army, has just recovered from a stroke; they go through with the wedding. However, the heartbreak his mother experiences at the courthouse wedding prepares the story for a shift to drama. The only way to atone for the disgraceful wedding is a magnificent wedding banquet, offered by Mr. Gao's former driver in the army who now owns a restaurant and reception hall. After the banquet, Wei-Wei has sex with a drunken Wai-Tung, and becomes pregnant. Simon is extremely upset when he finds out, and his relationship with Wai-Tung begins to deteriorate.
Shortly after, Mr. Gao has another stroke, and in a moment of anger, after a fight with both Simon and Wei-Wei, Wai-Tung admits the truth to his mother. She is shocked and insists that he not tell his father. However, the perceptive Mr. Gao has seen more than he is letting–on; he secretly tells Simon that he knows about their relationship, and, appreciating the considerable sacrifices he made for his biological son, takes Simon as his son as well. Simon accepts the Hongbao from Wai-Tung's father, a symbolic admission of their relationship. Mr. Gao seeks and receives Simon's promise not to tell his secret for, as he points out, without the sham marriage, he'd never have a grandchild.
While en route to an appointment for an abortion, Wei-Wei decides to keep the baby, and asks Simon to stay together with Wai-Tung and be the baby's second father. In the final parting scene, as Wai-Tung's parents prepare to fly home, Mrs. Gao has forged an emotional bond to daughter-in-law Wei-Wei. Mr. Gao accepts Simon and warmly shakes his hand. In the end, both derive some happiness from the situation, and they walk off to board the aircraft, leaving the unconventional family to sort itself out.
- Winston Chao as Wai-Tung Gao (T: 高偉同, S: 高伟同, P: Gāo Wěitóng, W: Kao Wei-t'ung)
- May Chin as Wei-Wei Gu (T: 顧葳葳, S: 顾葳葳, P: Gù Wēiwēi, W: Ku Wei-wei)
- Kuei Ya-lei as Mrs. Gao
- Sihung Lung as Mr. Gao
- Mitchell Lichtenstein as Simon (T: 賽門, S: 赛门, P: Sàimén)
- Simon is a tall American with blue eyes and blonde hair. He speaks broken Mandarin Chinese but is proficient in cooking Asian dishes. He is the only character in the movie who receives open prejudice for being gay.
- Dion Birney as Andrew
- Jeanne Kuo Chang as Wai-Tung's secretary
- Michael Gaston as Justice of the Peace
- Ang Lee (cameo) as wedding guest
In the published screenplay version of the film, James Schamus wrote that the film was "first drafted in Chinese, then translated into English, re-written in English, translated back into Chinese, and eventually subtitled in Chinese and English and a dozen other languages." About 60% of the film is in Mandarin Chinese. Elisabetta Marino, author of "When East Meets West: A Sweet and Sour Encounter in Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet", wrote that "after striving to read the subtitles for the first ten or fifteen minutes, one finds oneself so completely absorbed in the flow of the story, in the tones of the several voices, in the gestures and the facial expressions of the actors, that one simply forgets to read and reaches an understanding beyond languages, beyond words, following a plot and, most of all, a set of characters who do not conform to the stereotypical portrayals an American audience would expect." Marino argued that "Lee’s creative process and his final choice of two languages, Mandarin Chinese and English, for the movie are in themselves symptomatic of his wish to reach a peaceful coexistence between apparently irreconcilable cultures, without conferring the leading role on either of them."
The Wedding Banquet received mostly positive reviews; it currently holds a 96% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Alan Jones from the Radio Times "Sharply observed and never once striking a false note, this sweet-and-sour rib-tickler is a real treat." Roger Ebert wrote "What makes the film work is the underlying validity of the story, the way the filmmakers don’t simply go for melodrama and laughs, but pay these characters their due. At the end of the film, I was a little surprised how much I cared for them." 
Box office success
Having earned $23.6 million, on a $1 million budget, the film was also the most financially profitable movie of 1993, when considered in terms of ratios of return, while Jurassic Park only earned a ratio of 13.8 
Elisabetta Marino, author of "When East Meets West: A Sweet and Sour Encounter in Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet", wrote that the film suggests that there can be a reconciliation between Eastern and western cultures, unlike Amy Tan's novels where the cultural differences are portrayed as irreconcilable.
The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 66th Academy Awards and also nominated for Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It won the Golden Space Needle of the Seattle International Film Festival and the Golden Bear at the 43rd Berlin International Film Festival.
In 2003, the Village Theatre presented a musical staging of the story. It was directed by John Tillinger, choreographed by Sergio Trujillo, with music by Woody Pak and book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey. Yorkey, Village's associate artistic director, said this of the production, "The film succeeds because of Ang Lee's delicate poetry, and there is no way we can replicate that or translate that into a musical. So we took the story a step further. Whereas the film ends very ambiguously, our musical goes on past where the film ends". The show starred Welly Yang as Wai Tung.
- Mixed-orientation marriage
- Lavender marriage
- List of submissions to the 66th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film
- List of Taiwanese submissions for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
- Dariotis, Wei Ming; Fung, Eileen (January 1, 1997). "Breaking the Soy Sauce Jar: Diaspora and Displacement in the Films of Ang Lee". In Lu, Hsiao-peng; Lu, Sheldon H. Transnational Chinese Cinemas: Identity, Nationhood, Gender. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. p. 212. ISBN 978-0824818456. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
- Marino, Elisabetta (2005). "When East Meets West: A Sweet and Sour Encounter in Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet". Postcolonial Text 1 (2). ISSN 1705-9100. Archived from the original on 2015-10-27. Retrieved 2015-10-27.
- The Wedding Banquet at Rotten Tomatoes
- Alexander Ryll. "Essential Gay Themed Films To Watch, The Wedding banquet (Xi Yan)". Gay Essential. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
- "The 66th Academy Awards (1994) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 25 September 2015.
- "Prizes & Honours: 1993". Berlin International Film Festival. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
- ウェディングバンケット (新書) [Wedding Banquet]. Amazon Japan (in Japanese) (Magazine House). ISBN 978-4838705085. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
- Gener, Randy (2003). "Review: Wedding Banquet". American Theatre 20 (9): 6. ISSN 8750-3255.
- Gans, Andrew (July 16, 2003). "Wedding Banquet Musical to Make U.S. Premiere at Seattle's Village Theatre". Playbill. Archived from the original on October 27, 2015.
- The Wedding Banquet at the Internet Movie Database
- The Wedding Banquet at AllMovie
- The Wedding Banquet at Box Office Mojo
- The Wedding Banquet at Rotten Tomatoes
- Ebert, Roger. "The Wedding Banquet" (Film review). Chicago Sun-Times. 27 August 1993.
- Literature, Arts and Medicine Database, NYU