Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Happy Cleaners Review: An Authentic Asian American Immigrant Story

Yun Jeong	...	Kevin Donald Chang	Donald Chang	...	Danny Charles Ryu	Charles Ryu	...	Dad Yeena Sung	Yeena Sung	...	Hyunny Dax Richardson	Dax Richardson	...	Mr. Han Hyang-hwa Lim	Hyang-hwa Lim	...	Mom Jaehee Wilder	Jaehee Wilder	...	Grandma Jamie Jungah Kim	Jamie Jungah Kim	...	Aunt Jaeki Cho	Jaeki Cho	...	Freddy Lena Enck	Lena Enck	...	Customer

Release date: February 5, 2021
Running time: 89 minutes
Stars: Hyang-hwa Lim, Charles Ryu, Yun Jeong, Yeena Sung
Directors: Julian Kim, Peter S. Lee
Writers: Kat Kim, Julian Kim, Peter S. Lee

When the Choi family lose their dry cleaning business, they learn to love  each other to survive the crisis and heartaches that they cause each other.

Happy Cleaners tells a realistic story of immigrating and trying to make it in America.  The Choi family runs a dry cleaning business that they have operated for years.  However, time, age, and a new landlord that is hoping to make more profit threaten their family business and force them to reevaluate their careers and family structure.  The first thing you will notice about this film is that it feels like an authentic Asian story.  There were Asian influences everywhere, from the family dynamics, to the sense of duty above some of your own hopes and dreams, to overbearing controlling parents, the inherent feeling that you can do something yourself rather than have to pay for it, and even rice for breakfast (and often lunch and dinner).  I also loved the mix of English and Korean throughout, with actors who could seamlessly transition between the languages.  It made for a much more authentic story and what I imagine is how a lot of immigrant families communicate in their homes.  

Theresa Choh-Lee	...	producer Julian Kim	...	producer Kat Kim	...	producer Hj Lee	...	producer Peter S. Lee	...	producer       Directed by  Julian Kim	...	(co-director) Peter S. Lee	...	(co-director)Writing Credits (in alphabetical order)   Julian Kim	...	(story) Julian Kim	...	(writer) Kat Kim	...	(writer) Peter S. Lee	...	(story) Peter S. Lee	...	(writer)
The core nucleus of the film is the Choi family, consisting of a mom and dad, Kevin, Hyunny, and their Grandmother.  And the cast of this film is perfectly cast to represent this family.  They have a fantastic, sometimes tense family dynamic that feels very natural.  All of their hopes and dreams grow and clash as the realities of life sometimes interfere with their desires.  Each family member plays an important piece of the family puzzle and their interactions and inherent conflicts are sometimes enjoyable and sometimes painful to see.  I really liked all of them, but the mother (Lim) feels the most authentic.  She is a strong matriarch who also tries too much to meddle in her kids lives.  But as the film progresses, you get a better sense of why she is so concerned about controlling her children's choices and life trajectory.  

And one thing about Happy Cleaners that is so interesting is the showcasing of immigrants and especially differing attitudes between generations.  The parents still try to treat their kids in a less American way, hoping to weigh in and influence their every decision.  The inherent tension between the ways of life in the two cultures formed a lot of the heat, and heart of the film.  It was really interesting to hear the Mom's unfiltered thoughts about her children's choices, and to also see where she was coming from when making those requests.  And it is equally interesting to hear the children's observations on the parent's requests and where their thinking differs from their parents.  The film is a fine encapsulation of the immigrant experience and also of the tensions and nuance between cultures.  

If there are negatives about the film, it is that the story progresses a little too slowly--though that does leave extra time to get to know the characters and their situations.  And with this slow progression, you do get to experience some character growth leading to a bittersweet, but satisfying conclusion.  Additionally, there are occasionally rough lines that might have benefited from another take, but they definitely don't sour this experience.  

Happy Cleaners tells an authentic immigrant story, with interesting insights into the Asian experience, a wonderful family dynamic, and a good balance of dreams and duty. 

Rent it.

Asian Korean Korea Immigrant Small business drama struggle bittersweet family love duty work worklife success succeed
If you liked this review and want to see more from Watch or Pass, please consider 
following us on our various social media platforms: FacebookTwitterInstagramYoutube
Happy Cleaners opens in select theaters starting February 5, 2021, and will be available digitally and on demand on February 12, 2021.

For showtimes, click here.  For more information on the digital releases, click the buttons below.

This site contains affiliate links. //Commerce or this site may be compensated when you click through links on our site.  

No comments:

Post a Comment