Review: ‘Pretty Rosebud’ a thorny, cliched Asian American tale


Since the publication of Amy Tan’s “The Joy Luck Club” 26 years ago, the suffering of women of Asian descent hasn’t ebbed much despite waves of acculturation — at least that’s what one might glean from Asian Canadian Mina Shum’s 1995 “Double Happiness,” Alice Wu’s 2005 “Saving Face” and now director Oscar Torre’s “Pretty Rosebud,” written by and starring Chuti Tiu.

Even in this day and age, Tiu’s character, Cissy, must placate dictatorial old-guard parents and a sexually and professionally inept Asian American husband. The only tidbits about her that stray from the now-cliché narrative are that she takes up boxing as a hobby and that she sleeps around. Signs of progress?

The story seems dated when juxtaposed with Justin Lin’s 2002 “Better Luck Tomorrow” and even the Harold and Kumar series. If their male counterparts could manage to break free from the shadow of Long Duk Dong, why do Asian American women continue to fall victim to patriarchy in the movies?


Tiu finds absolutely nothing redeemable in Cissy’s upbringing. Her wholesale rejection of her parents’ values isn’t the enlightenment filmmakers would have you believe; it’s internalized racism — conditioned by a lifetime of exposure to stereotypical depictions and cultural colonialism — to think that Asians’ heritage and culture necessarily deprive them of happiness and fulfillment. Before the new TV series “Fresh Off the Boat” (starring Randall Park of “The Interview”), you’d have to look to an Ikea commercial to find a functional Asian American couple in the media.

“Pretty Rosebud.”

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 21 minutes.

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood.