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PostPosted: Fri Sep 06, 2019 8:57 pm 
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TEDDY LEE, TIFFANY CHU IN MR. PURPLE

Sibling reunion over father's deathbed

Justin Chon has assembled many acting credits over the past fourteen years and lately is working to enrich the directing ones. This is his third outing as a feature director, though the first, 2015's Man Up, seems to have been little seen. Of Chon's previous feature, Gook (2017), I wrote that it was "Alternately playful, violent, tragic, striving" and "a wildly uneven film," though "you can never say it doesn't care." It was about blacks and Asians during the 1992 Rodney King riots. Ms. Purple is more intimate. It may be seen as the second in a turbulent trilogy of L.A. Korean American life. It focuses on a Korean American sister and brother in the present day trying to care for their comatose father, their semi-estrangement halted by this task.

You might almost think the Watts riots were still going on, the action starts out so abrupt and turbulent. Kasie (Tiffany Chu), is the exclusive focus at first except for a flashback when she and her younger brother Carey (Teddy Lee) ) were very young. It shows Carey was at odds with their father while she was his adored "princess." Now Kasie works as a hostess girl for crude businessman at a karaoke bar in Los Angeles' Koreatown where she gets mistreated and shortchanged. Only the lonely young Hispanic parking lot attendant Octavio (Octavio Pizano) is sympathetic. When the caregiver for their father quits, Kasie can't find a replacement. Her desperate search for one is depicted in a rapid montage aa a series of brutal rejections.

Perhaps in desperation Kasie calls Carey, who seems to be a vague loser now, for help and to her surprise and pleasure, he comes. She also has a rich sometime boyfriend, a sort of macho sugar daddy, Tony (Ronnie Kim), who provides her with generous envelopes of cash from time to time after some lovemaking and also takes her to dressy events because he thinks her beautiful, which of course she is (the film makes the most of her lush features), though she's also exhausted.

Carey takes up residence in the house with Kasie and their comatose father and cares for the latter off and on, though he's not altogether responsible about that. Rather implausibly, he sometimes pushes their father's bed, which is on rollers, out into the city. When together, the siblings remember amusing times when they were kids. But they also remember awful times. We learn their mother left to go live with a richer Korean when they were young.

Kasie runs into Octavio and has a "date" with him , attending with him a family quinceanera. Octavio's improvised lines are awkward and touching. It all seems rather desparate and these lives feel hopeless. A scene ends abruptly, patched up against an unrelated one. There's a conveyed sense of disjointedness or broken life - as well as today's short attention spans: the intercutting of flashbacks to inform the present can also contribue to a choppy feel. The illustrative flashback can also be too on-the-nose. Music helps, and deep saturated color that makes the sadness poetic and felt. Tiffany Chu is very watchable, not just beautiful but a presence.

Chon has made something beautiful and arty about minding a dying dad, patchily reconciling with a sibling, and facing up to the inevitable for the parent, hospice care. Poetry instead of prose. Perhaps more unified than Gook - the swirling style and soaring strings meld it all together, but this feels overdone. There is a lot of emotion that gets through to you sometimes, but I'm not fully convinced. Variety calls it "stylish," but it seems too much like a music video to me.

Ms. Purple, 85 mins., debuted at Sundance Jan. 2019; also Seattle. Theatrical release Sept. 6 and 13, 2019. Metascore: 66%.

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