Tsai Chin leads as a grumpy grandma in this indie comedy, out on Blu-ray
Tsai Chin has been a supporting actress in films since the ’50s (The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, Casino Royale and The Joy Luck Club among them); now in her 80s, Lucky Grandma is her first starring role. And what a role it is! Grandma has a set routine: have dinner with her son and his family once a week, light incense in her husband’s memory each night, go to the pool for tai chi, and take the bus with other Chinatown retirees to Foxwoods Casino. Her son wants her to move in with them, but she appreciates the small apartment she’s made her own.
The film opens with Grandma receiving a card reading — the first visuals of Lucky Grandma immediately bring to mind the start of Varda’s Cleo from 5 to 7. Unlike Cleo, Grandma receives an auspicious fortune. Assured of good luck, she removes money from savings and gets on the bus to Foxwoods. The caper begins with a bag of money she, um, finds, on the bus ride home. Soon a couple of dim-witted gangsters are involved, and Grandma hires her own bodyguard, gentle giant Big Pong (Hsiao-Yuan Ha, who I sincerely hope to see in more films after this).
Based on a screenplay by Angela Cheng and director Sasie Sealy, Lucky Grandma has the cadence of a Coen Brothers farce with a style all its own. Using sharp editing and a score that somehow fuses jazzy horns and electronic beats, the film never loses momentum. The physicality involved in Chin’s performance is astounding, and she plays so well this cantankerous old soul who aims to keep her independence (even if it involves lying to two rival gangs).
It is still rare to see an American film showcasing a large Asian American cast, and showcasing an older actress in the lead makes Lucky Grandma even more of a rare gem. The film offers a fun distraction from our current madness, and the Kino Lorber Blu-ray release includes enough special features to be worth the investment.
The Blu-ray release from Kino Lorber and Good Deed Entertainment includes the theatrical trailer and a number of short features, including:
- an interview with Tsai Chin
- director Sasie Sealy and her co-writer Angela Cheng speak about their years of working on this film and the importance of representation in media (plus there’s footage of them winning a $1 million grant from AT&T towards production of the film)
- a short about filming and casting in Chinatown
The film is also available to rent via VOD.
Get it at Amazon:
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