The Wedding Banquet

The Wedding Banquet

Theatrical release poster
Traditional 喜宴
Mandarin Xǐyàn
Directed by Ang Lee
Produced by Ang Lee
Ted Hope
James Schamus
Written by Ang Lee
Neil Peng
James Schamus
Music by Mader
Cinematography Jong Lin
Edited by Tim Squyres
Distributed by The Samuel Goldwyn Company
Release dates
  • 4 August 1993 (1993-08-04) (United States)
Running time
106 minutes
Country Taiwan
United States
Language Mandarin Chinese
Budget $1 million
Box office $23.6 million[1]

The Wedding Banquet (Chinese: 喜宴; pinyin: Xǐyàn; Wade–Giles: Hsi yen) is a 1993 film about a gay Taiwanese immigrant man who marries a mainland Chinese woman to placate his parents and get her a green card. His plan backfires when his parents arrive in the United States to plan his wedding banquet and he has to hide the truth of his partner.

The film was directed by Ang Lee and stars Winston Chao, May Chin, Gua Ah-leh, Sihung Lung, and Mitchell Lichtenstein. The Wedding Banquet is the first of three movies that Ang Lee made featuring gay characters; the second is Brokeback Mountain and the third is Taking Woodstock. The film is a co-production between Taiwan and the United States.

Together with Pushing Hands and Eat Drink Man Woman, all made in Taiwan, all showing the Confucian family at risk, and all starring the Taiwanese actor Sihung Lung, it forms what has been called Lee's "Father Knows Best" trilogy.[2]


Wai-Tung Gao and Simon are a happy gay couple living in Manhattan. Wai-Tung is in his late 20s, so his tradition-minded parents are eager to see him get married and have a child in order to continue the family line. When Wai-Tung's parents hire a dating service, he and Simon stall for time by inventing impossible demands. They demand an opera singer and add that she must be 5'9", have two PhDs, and speak five languages. The service actually locates a 5'8" Chinese woman who sings Western opera, speaks five languages and has a single PhD. She is very gracious when Wai-Tung explains his dilemma, as she, too, is hiding a relationship (with a Caucasian man). At Simon's insistence, Wai-Tung decides to marry one of his tenants, Wei-Wei, a penniless artist from mainland China in need of a green card. Besides helping Wei-Wei, Simon and Wai-Tung hope that this will placate Wai-Tung's parents. Before Wai-Tung's parents arrive, Simon tells Wei-Wei everything she needs to know about Wai-Tung's habits, body, and lifestyle, and the three take down all homosexual content from their house and replace it with traditional Chinese scrolls.

Mr. and Mrs. Gao announce they will visit from Taiwan, bringing gifts and US$30,000 to hold an extravagant wedding for their son. Wai-Tung dares not tell his parents the truth, because his father, a retired officer in the Chinese Nationalist Army, has just recovered from a stroke. As a part of the lie, Wai-Tung introduces Simon as his landlord. A day after Wai-Tung's parents arrive, he announces that Wei-Wei and he are planning to get their marriage certificate at city hall. However, the heartbreak his mother experiences at the courthouse wedding prepares the story for a shift to drama. The only way to atone for the disgraceful wedding is a magnificent wedding banquet, offered by Mr. Gao's former driver in the army who now owns a restaurant and reception hall. After the banquet, Wei-Wei has sex with a drunken Wai-Tung, and becomes pregnant. Simon is extremely upset when he finds out, and his relationship with Wai-Tung begins to deteriorate.

Shortly after, Mr. Gao has another stroke, and in a moment of anger, after a fight with both Simon and Wei-Wei, Wai-Tung admits the truth to his mother. She is shocked and insists that he not tell his father. However, the perceptive Mr. Gao has seen more than he is letting on; he secretly tells Simon that he knows about their relationship, and, appreciating the considerable sacrifices he made for his biological son, takes Simon as his son as well. Simon accepts the Hongbao from Wai-Tung's father, a symbolic admission of their relationship. Mr. Gao seeks and receives Simon's promise not to tell his secret for, as he points out, without the sham marriage, he'd never have a grandchild.

While en route to an appointment for an abortion, Wei-Wei decides to keep the baby, and asks Simon to stay together with Wai-Tung and be the baby's second father. In the final parting scene, as Wai-Tung's parents prepare to fly home, Mrs. Gao has forged an emotional bond to daughter-in-law Wei-Wei. Mr. Gao accepts Simon and warmly shakes his hand. In the end, both derive some happiness from the situation, and they walk off to board the aircraft, leaving the unconventional family to sort itself out.



In the published screenplay version of the film, James Schamus wrote that the film was "first drafted in Chinese, then translated into English, re-written in English, translated back into Chinese, and eventually subtitled in Chinese and English and a dozen other languages." About 60% of the film is in Mandarin Chinese. Elisabetta Marino, author of "When East Meets West: A Sweet and Sour Encounter in Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet", wrote that "after striving to read the subtitles for the first ten or fifteen minutes, one finds oneself so completely absorbed in the flow of the story, in the tones of the several voices, in the gestures and the facial expressions of the actors, that one simply forgets to read and reaches an understanding beyond languages, beyond words, following a plot and, most of all, a set of characters who do not conform to the stereotypical portrayals an American audience would expect." Marino argued that "Lee’s creative process and his final choice of two languages, Mandarin Chinese and English, for the movie are in themselves symptomatic of his wish to reach a peaceful coexistence between apparently irreconcilable cultures, without conferring the leading role on either of them."[3]


The Wedding Banquet received mostly positive reviews; it currently holds a 96% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[4] Alan Jones from the Radio Times "Sharply observed and never once striking a false note, this sweet-and-sour rib-tickler is a real treat." Roger Ebert wrote "What makes the film work is the underlying validity of the story, the way the filmmakers don’t simply go for melodrama and laughs, but pay these characters their due. At the end of the film, I was a little surprised how much I cared for them." [5]

The worldwide gross of The Wedding Banquet was $23.6 million. Considering the $1 million budget, the film was also the most financially profitable movie of 1993, when considered in terms of ratios of return, while overall top grosser Jurassic Park only earned a ratio of 13.8 ($914 million earnings on a $60 million budget).[1]


Elisabetta Marino, author of "When East Meets West: A Sweet and Sour Encounter in Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet", wrote that the film suggests that there can be a reconciliation between Eastern and western cultures, unlike Amy Tan's novels where the cultural differences are portrayed as irreconcilable.[3]


The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 66th Academy Awards,[6] and also nominated for Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It won the Golden Space Needle of the Seattle International Film Festival and the Golden Bear at the 43rd Berlin International Film Festival.[7]


In December 1993, a novelization of the film, titled Wedding Banquet (ウェディングバンケット Wedingu Banketto) and published in Japan, was written by Yūji Konno (今野 雄二 Konno Yūji). (ISBN 4-8387-0508-5)[8]

In 2003, the Village Theatre presented a musical staging of the story. It was directed by John Tillinger, choreographed by Sergio Trujillo, with music by Woody Pak and book and lyrics by Brian Yorkey. Yorkey, Village's associate artistic director, said this of the production, "The film succeeds because of Ang Lee's delicate poetry, and there is no way we can replicate that or translate that into a musical. So we took the story a step further. Whereas the film ends very ambiguously, our musical goes on past where the film ends". The show starred Welly Yang as Wai Tung.[9]

See also


  1. 1 2 Dinos are ‘Wedding’ bridesmaid
  2. Dariotis, Wei Ming; Fung, Eileen (January 1, 1997). "Breaking the Soy Sauce Jar: Diaspora and Displacement in the Films of Ang Lee". In Lu, Hsiao-peng; Lu, Sheldon H. Transnational Chinese Cinemas: Identity, Nationhood, Gender. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. p. 212. ISBN 978-0824818456. Retrieved October 27, 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 Marino, Elisabetta (2005). "When East Meets West: A Sweet and Sour Encounter in Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet". Postcolonial Text. 1 (2). ISSN 1705-9100. Archived from the original on 2015-10-27. Retrieved 2015-10-27.
  4. The Wedding Banquet at Rotten Tomatoes
  5. Alexander Ryll. "Essential Gay Themed Films To Watch, The Wedding banquet (Xi Yan)". Gay Essential. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  6. "The 66th Academy Awards (1994) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 25 September 2015.
  7. "Prizes & Honours: 1993". Berlin International Film Festival. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  8. ウェディングバンケット (新書) [Wedding Banquet]. Amazon Japan (in Japanese). Magazine House. ISBN 978-4838705085. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  9. Gener, Randy (2003). "Review: Wedding Banquet". American Theatre. 20 (9): 6. ISSN 8750-3255.

Further reading

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/4/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.