Meewella | Critic

According to P

Tag: Wai Ching Ho

QuickView: Turning Red (2022)

“This isn’t just our first concert. This is our first step into womanhood.”

Meilin Lee

Recently, Pixar’s strongest films have been those that draw inspiration from wider cultural backgrounds like Coco and Soul. Turning Red is the first to feature an ethnically Asian lead, and Domee Shi’s story about adolescence conflicting with familial duty and traditional expectations will likely be familiar to most of the Asian diaspora. This is a coming-of-age tale with the turmoil of Meilin’s adolescent hormones depicted by her literal transformation into a large red panda whenever she cannot control her emotions. I was aware of the “controversy” over the film’s direct references to menstruation, so was surprised to discover they were so limited ⁠— the title is unrelated, and there is simply a misunderstanding by Meilin’s mother who proffers a stack of sanitary pads; it does nothing more than normalise part of puberty in passing and in a healthy way. Rather, Turning Red’s focus is on Meilin’s strained relationship with her controlling mother and the fact it is her friends’ support that provides a calming influence. The sumptuous detail in food is noteworthy, recognising its cultural significance (Shi also wrote and directed Pixar’s Oscar-winning Bao short), but largely the engagement with Chinese heritage feels superficial despite the family running a temple. It is perhaps an unfair criticism since little is central to the story beyond lunar mysticism ⁠— like To All The Boys this is ultimately about the teenage experience and simply happens to be Asian American led (which is a key part of improving representation). A greater issue is that Turning Red rapidly runs out of steam in its second half, with a conclusion that feels outsized for its personal story.


QuickView: Hustlers (2019)

Hustlers poster

“This city, this whole country, is a strip club. You’ve got people tossing the money, and people doing the dance.”


Sold to the audience through the neon allure of a New York strip club, Hustlers is the kind of female-led crime drama that Hollywood has been struggling to make successfully. The vibe is more Magic Mike meets The Wolf of Wall Street than Showgirls, and Lorene Scafaria’s direction avoids the male gaze that would have made the opening act tawdry, introducing us to the hustle of the strip club through the familiar setup of a newcomer taken under the wing of a veteran. The easy cash from stockbrokers with money to burn creates a dependency that ruins the industry once the financial crisis hits, leaving the women desperate for ways to supplement their income. Based on actual events, the simplicity of the grift — drug a mark and then drain his credit cards whilst he is in a compliant state — makes the film’s mid-section incredibly repetitive until the gang starts to overreach and the wheels come off. Jennifer Lopez offers a surprisingly layered performance as the maternal mastermind, overshadowing Constance Wu, whilst Lily Reinhardt seems to channel the naive enthusiasm of a young Brittany Murphy in an amusing supporting role. With the story told from Destiny’s point of view, Hustlers largely skirts around issues of consent and victim-blaming. However, the parallels it draws with the predatory nature of Wall Street, and the hustle of capitalism at large, is a potent message and an enjoyable subversion.


"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

Up ↑