Movie Review: The Farewell
Awkwafina is a revelation in this dramedy. The US actress-rapper has built a reputation in Hollywood for playing providers of comic relief in Ocean's 8 and Crazy Rich Asians.
The 30-year-old, whose real name is Nora Lum, takes a 180-degree turn in this quiet Chinese-language film that serves as an excellent showcase of her dramatic prowess.
Awkwafina plays Billi, a Chinese-American woman who learns that her beloved grandmother nai nai (a wonderful Zhao Shuzhen) has stage four cancer and has only three months to live.
As if the news is not devastating enough, she is told that, as per Chinese traditions, no one in the family must let nai nai know she is dying.
So under the guise of a wedding, Billi, her parents and her other expatriate relatives return to visit nai nai in China, greatly delighting the matriarch.
Based on writer-director Lulu Wang's experience with her ailing grandmother, the story looks at how different people and cultures deal with grief, loss, responsibility and expectation. There are also lighter fish-out-of-water moments that occur when true-blue New Yorker Billi returns to China after 25 years.
While the other cast members pull off strong performances, Awkwafina brings the most depth.
Perhaps the role is right up her alley as she was raised by her paternal grandmother.
To see her shed tears, to watch her struggle with internal conflicts and to hear her deliver everything in Mandarin, she deserves much credit for daring to step out of her comfort zone.
Let us hope The Farewell will not be her only foray into drama.
FILM: The Farewell
STARRING: Awkwafina, Zhao Shuzhen, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin
DIRECTOR: Lulu Wang
THE SKINNY: When a Chinese family discovers their beloved matriarch (Zhao) has only a few months to live, they decide to keep her in the dark and organise an impromptu wedding to gather everyone together before she dies.