Movie review: ‘The People I’ve Slept With’

Director Quentin Lee continues to explore the Asian American experience in his fourth feature, “The People I’ve Slept With,” a saucy comedy that deftly turns serious. As in such films as “Shopping for Fangs,” which took an amused look at sex and materialism in upscale suburbia, and “Ethan Mao,” in which a gay youth copes with his ultra-traditional, homophobic family, Lee finds the universal in the particular: You don’t have to be Asian to identify with his people and their predicaments.

Lovely, free-spirited Angela (Karin Anna Cheung), an aspiring artist, has taken quite literally the advice of her friend Gabriel ( Wilson Cruz) to “relax and have fun.” Unfortunately, she realizes there were four instances, among many, in which she engaged in unprotected sex, and now she’s pregnant. Screenwriter Koji Steven Sakai, in sync with Lee’s detached yet caring sensibility, sends Angela off to determine in this age of DNA testing which of the four candidates is the father.

Over time, Angela becomes increasingly aware of the challenges and choices she faces. If she should ascertain the identity of her unborn child’s father, then what? Throughout the film a subtext suggests that young people, especially Asian Americans, need to think for themselves rather than feel obligated to fulfill their parents’ expectations.

Lee’s young actors shine with talent and personality, but the film’s gravitas lies in the wisdom and insight of Angela’s loving father, so beautifully played by the distinguished veteran James Shigeta.

“The People I’ve Slept With.” MPAA rating: unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes. At the Sunset 5, West Hollywood.