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Film / The Wedding Banquet

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The Wedding Banquet is a comedy directed by Ang Lee and released in 1993. It was Lee's first exploration of the societal acceptance of homosexuality, and is the second part in Lee's Father Knows Best trilogy.

Gao Wai-tung lives a successful life in New York City: his business is thriving and he is in a happy relationship with his boyfriend Simon. The only problem is that his parents, who have stayed back home in Taiwan, ask him with increasing urgency when he's going to get married to a nice Chinese girl and give them some grandchildren. Fearing their reaction, Wai-tung has never told them about his sexual orientation.

In order to satisfy them, Simon suggests that Wai-tung engage in a marriage of convenience with Wei-wei, one of his tenants, a penniless artist from Shanghai who needs a green card. What none of them expected is that Wai-tung's parents would show up for the wedding. Now Wai-tung and Wei-wei have to go through the hassle of an elaborate traditional wedding ceremony, complete with lavish banquet and dozens of guests. After the banquet, a terminally drunk Wai-tung realizes that Wei-wei is having sex with him.

With Wei-wei now pregnant, and Wai-tung's parents staying weeks longer than initially planned, the relationship between Wai-tung and Simon becomes strained. Wai-tung's father eventually figures out his son's homosexuality, and gives Simon a red envelope, a symbolic admission of his status as Wai-tung's real spouse. Wei-wei, who was considering having an abortion, decides to keep the baby and to raise it together with both men.

A remake of the movie directed by Andrew Ahn is set to be released in 2025, starring Lily Gladstone, Kelly Marie Tran, and Bowen Yang in the new main roles.

Contains examples of:

  • Arranged Marriage: Wai-Tung's parents are so desperate to see him get married that they fly a potential match over to him without his consent. They later pretty much entirely organize the wedding banquet, which Wai-Tung hadn't wanted but felt guilted into.
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment: At the hospital after his father has a stroke, he starts to confess to his mother that he's gay, and his mother wants to know why he didn't tell her. Turns out she thinks he's revealing that Wei-wei is pregnant, which she had already figured out.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Wai-Tung and Simon reconcile and Wei-Wei decides to keep the baby and raise it with both men, though due to his father's decision, Wai-Tung has no idea his father knows about his sexuality and accepts him, and his mother is totally in the dark.
  • Citizenship Marriage: Wei-wei agrees to marry Wai-tung because she needs a green card.
  • Coming-Out Story: Well, zig-zagged. Wai-Tung goes through all the trouble to avoid this, but in the end still comes out to his mother, but not his father. Turns out his father knew all along because he understood some English.
  • Cosmetic Catastrophe: Averted. While Wai-tung's father is giving Wei-wei a speech, she begins to cry from all the pressure, and then mother comes in and literally holds her hands to her face to prevent "three hours of make-up" from being destroyed.
  • Creator Cameo: Ang Lee makes an appearance at the eponymous banquet as the random guy saying "You're witnessing 5000 years of sexual repression."
  • Deadpan Snarker: When the oblivious officiant continuously mispronounces Wei-Wei's name, the latter (who ordinarily has no problem speaking English) switches to heavy Engrish to mock him.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: The post-wedding scene in bed, a drunk Wei-Wei all but forces herself on an equally drunk Wai-Tung, provoked by him having an erection. After she gets pregnant, she even blames it on him. Simon has the audacity to not only solely blame Wai-Tung for the encounter even after Wei-Wei takes responsibility, but only takes issue with Wei-Wei getting pregnant because he believes Wai-Tung should have practiced safe sex—as if Wai-Tung, who couldn't even be sober enough to resist Wei-Wei's advances, was going to be in the right frame of mind to put on a condom. Many critics pointed out that if it were a groom drunkenly forcing himself on and impregnating a lesbian bride, the film would be roundly denounced instead of a celebrated melodrama.
  • Dramedy: The film starts off as a comedy of misunderstandings, but takes a harder turn into drama after the wedding banquet.
  • Family Honor: When Simon asks Wai-Tung's father about why he doesn't want his son to know that he knows he's gay, he answers "For the family".
  • Feminine Women Can Cook: Averted by the fact that Wei-Wei is a bad cook according to Simon, and inverted by the fact that Simon does the cooking while Wei-Wei only pretends to cook in front of Wai-Tung's parents.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Wei-wei considers an abortion, but decides to keep the baby.
  • Hard-Work Montage: When Wai-Tung hears that his parents are coming to see him and Wei-Wei, we get to see a montage of Wai-Tung, Wei-Wei and Simon removing anything related to the relationship between Wai-Tung and Simon in the house.
  • Hidden Depths: Wai-Tung's father is introduced as a stereotypical stodgy, masculine, upright ex-military man who would probably not take well to learning of his son's sexuality. However, his interest in art and calligraphy reveals him to be much more complicated, and in the end, it's revealed that he has been able to understand English all along and picked up Wai-Tung's true sexuality by observing him and listening.
  • I Know You Know I Know: Wai-Tung comes out to his mother at the hospital, but not to his father. Then, later, Wai-tung's father reveals to Simon that he knew all along, but asks to keep it from everyone else.
  • I Want Grandkids: Wai-Tung is an only child (the complications from his birth having prevented his mother from having additional children), so his parents have been leaning on him to find a nice Chinese girl to marry and bear his children; Mr. Gao in particular makes it clear that he wants to know the family line will continue after he dies.
  • Love Triangle: Simon, Wai-Tung and Wei-Wei. Made complicated by that Wai-Tung and Simon are gay men and Wei-Wei is a straight woman, making their orientations completely incompatible, but Wai-Tung and Wei-Wei becoming married and pregnant turns it more into a battle of trust and patience.
  • Makeover Montage: When Wei-Wei gets prepared for the wedding.
  • Marriage of Convenience: Wai-Tung and Wei-Wei's marriage serve both as a way of Wei-Wei getting her green card, and Wai-Tung being able to live in peace with Simon, away from his grandkid-begging parents.
  • The Matchmaker: Wai-Tung's mother has signed him up for Taiwan's classiest matchmaking service in the hope of getting him married off as soon as possible. Wai-Tung tries to frustrate her by putting impossible requirements on the form (an opera singer with two PhDs who is 5'9" tall—which, Wai-Tung tells Simon, is above average by Chinese standards), but this backfires when he gets matched to a girl who almost meets the requirements (she only has one PhD and is only 5'8").
  • Men Can't Keep House: Averted. Wei-wei's place is a mess, while Simon and Wai-Tung's place is well-kept.
  • My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: Simon can quite understand Chinese, but when he speaks it, he can sometimes say the opposite of what he means to say.
  • My Own Private "I Do": Of the "elope first, plan later" variety. Wai-Tung and Wei-Wei's marriage is a sham, so they just want to get the ceremony over with as quickly as possible by visiting a Justice of the Peace, but when they run into Mr. Gao's former Army driver at the celebratory dinner, he offers to organise the extravagant celebration Mr. and Mrs. Gao were hoping for; Wai-Tung is forced to go along with it since he worries that admitting the truth will give his father another stroke.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: When Wai-tung agrees to go out on a date with a Chinese opera singer to get his parents off his back, all is going well until it turns out Wei-wei is the waitress at the restaurant they go to, and, believing Wai-Tung has been lying about being gay, tells him off and storms away. After Wai-tung and the opera singer leave, she reveals that she has also been lying to her parents—she has a white boyfriend.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Wai-tung's father. "I watch. I hear. I learn."
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: Mrs. Gao gifts Wei-Wei with a number of presents for her wedding, oblivious that Wei-Wei feels guilty accepting expensive and sentimental gifts for what's basically a sham marriage.
  • Platonic Kissing: Wai-Tung only gives Wei-Wei chaste kisses on the cheek during the wedding, which causes the upset guests to cajole him into giving her a real kiss.
  • The Reveal: Mr. Gao could speak and understand English the entire time, so the secrecy of hiding Wai-Tung's sexuality was for nothing.
  • Rewatch Bonus: The entire film, but especially the argument scene, becomes much funnier when it's revealed that Mr. Gao could understand English the entire time, but kept it hidden.
  • Shameful Strip: Downplayed. At the end of the wedding, Wai-Tung and Wei-Wei are asked to remove all of their clothes while being under bed sheets.
  • A Simple Plan: To get Wai-Tung's parents to stop pestering him about getting married (especially following Mr. Gao's stroke and his desire to hold a grandchild before he dies) and get Wei-Wei qualified for a green card, Simon suggests they enter a Marriage of Convenience, during which Wei-Wei can live in their basement room. Seems simple enough. Then Mr. and Mrs. Gao react to the news by announcing they're getting the next flight over from Taipei for the wedding, forcing Wai-Tung and Simon to hide all evidence of their relationship while making it believable that Wai-Tung really is engaged to Wei-Wei. And then a combination of the Gaos' disappointment at the civil ceremony and a chance encounter with Mr. Gao's former driver from his days as a Nationalist Army officer leads to the organisation of a lavish wedding banquet for hundreds of people. And then a very drunk Wei-Wei has sex with Wai-Tung after the banquet is over and gets pregnant...
  • Token Minority: Inverted. Simon is the only non-Asian character of the main cast.
  • Translation Convention: Averted. You have Mandarin-spoken dialogue in scenes involving Wai-Tung's family, and English-spoken dialogue in scenes involving Simon or other American characters.
  • Your Makeup Is Running: Averted by Wai-Tung's mother when Wei-Wei starts to cry while hearing a speech by Wai-Tung's father.
    Wai-Tung's mother: Don't cry! It's a 3-hour makeup!