kevinyang’s review published on Letterboxd:
Well meaning but really poorly executed. Feels like every moment of the film is just a distraction from what they really wanted to do all along: blast Springsteen and awkwardly shove lyrics onto the screen as they’re doing so. It devolves into caricatures of Asian families, lazy and predictable themes about finding yourself, and white savior tropes - not to mention it certainly doesn’t care for its female characters beyond being vehicles for the main character’s journey. The main character’s journey isn’t even that compelling because the world around it is so bare - maybe I’m just fed up with yet another story about a writer who needs to unlock his creative genius, especially when our notions of Asian families are tied down by a simplistic STEM = Asian = Bad vs Art = Western = Good conflict framework. Yes there’s some truth to it, but I want more complexity in how we represent these stories about difference.
All of these issues are very much the result of a bad script that is too enamored with crafting the perfect, feel good catharsis moment rather than developing its world and characters. The political angle feels like a periodic afterthought, the dialogue is wooden, the acting is quite bad, and you’ll likely spend more time cringing (in a bad way) than laughing or crying. It’s not trying to be anything more than a feel good story, but it manages to fail at not trying.