Alice Wu, a promising voice finally returns for an encore in Netflix’s “The Half of It.”
It was several years ago when I first watched “Saving Face,” renting it from a local video store (yeah, it was a VHS) and was captivated by a film that featured three strong leads, two of which I didn’t know much about before.
What drew me was that it was an Asian American film with an interesting premise. A mother and daughter were keeping secrets from each other. The mother is pregnant and no one knows who the father was, while the daughter was in the closet, but entering a serious relationship.
The film was directed by Alice Wu, who had made the unusual transition from tech to motion pictures. But this is around the time when Ang Lee’s career was launched with two movies that still rank among my favorite’s, “The Wedding Banquet” and “Eat, Drink, Man, Woman.”
It really felt like the launching pad for some extraordinary voices in the Asian American community. Put that into perspective: Lee has gone on to become one of the most celebrated directors in Hollywood and has won three Oscars.
Wu’s debut work in “Saving Face” is that good.
So it was five years ago that my brother and I headed out to Los Angeles for a 10th anniversary screening and Q&A at the Japanese American National Museum.
I figured it would be a large Asian crowd. Well, it was a large female crowd, which I hadn’t expected. But it is a testament that Wu had touched a nerve in different audiences for different reasons.
But it was a cool evening. I got to meet the cast and Teddy Zee, a legendary producer. Another producer on the movie, who wasn’t there, was Will Smith. Yes, the Fresh Prince.
So a few days ago, I had seen the preview for “The Half of It,” which debuts on May 1 on Netflix. When I saw the trailer, I got excited.
It felt like it a fresh new story, but the spirit of “Saving Face.” It also has the feel of “To All The Boys I Loved Before,” a teen movie with a lot of heart and intriguing characters.
“The Half of It,” is about a 17-year-old who starts writing love letters for the star football player, only to also fall in love with the same girl.
What has surprised me is that it’s been 15 years since Wu has written and directed a film, although she has been a script doctor for other productions. Part of it was her returning home to care for her mother, and part of it was writer’s block. You can learn more about Wu in this feature from the San Francisco Chronicle https://datebook.sfchronicle.com/movies-tv/san-franciscos-alice-wu-gets-back-into-directing-with-new-netflix-film-the-half-of-it?fbclid=IwAR28W9xjBSHI4PdnW0-H24Av8WjHssGPwUi3y4W5C1y1x1QE_7_-Hcb6lKs
But Wu’s story in getting “Saving Face” made reminded me of another film maker got his start, Jon Favreau.
Another one of my favorite independent movies is “Swingers,” which Favreau wrote. And he has gone to become maybe the biggest power player in Hollywood having launched the Marvel Cinematic Universe when he directed the Iron Man movies. His long list of accomplishments is too long to list.
A few days ago, Jon M. Chu, the director of “Crazy Rich Asians” tweeted out the New York Times article on Wu and posted:
The @thatalicewu is a pioneer that was ahead of her time when I first was in awe of her and now the world has caught up. Get ready everyone, she has a lot more to say. Keep an eye out on her for years to come. @Netflix #TheHalfOfIt
For that New York Times article, go to https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/29/movies/the-half-of-it-alice-wu.html?smid=tw-share