Page 2 July 18, 2019
Film Review Check It Out
The Farewell is a Clever and
Compassionate Modern Classic
Kailee Andrews for Cinemacy
One of the first big laughs of The Farewell
comes from a simple flash of onscreen text
reading: “Based on an Actual Lie.” It’s a
cheeky twist on the self-seriousness way
many films announce their basis in reality.
The “actual lie” the film is based on was fed
to writer-director Lulu Wang’s grandmother
after she received a stage four cancer diagnosis.
Wang’s family kept the diagnosis
secret so that their funny and formidable
grandma (affectionately called “Nai-Nai,”
the Mandarin term for paternal grandmother)
could live her final months unburdened by
knowledge of her own illness. The only
family member who wasn’t on board for
this deception was Nai-Nai’s 20-something
granddaughter, Lulu Wang.
In this semi-autobiographical adaptation,
Wang’s cinematic counterpart is
Billi, a struggling writer played with astonishing
vulnerability and verve by Crazy
Rich Asians breakout star and musician,
Awkwafina. Billi reluctantly agrees to
keep quiet. However, this means she and
other far-flung family members now need
an excuse to gather around Nai-Nai in
China without arousing suspicion. So they
pester Billi’s cousin to push his marriage
timeline into hyper-drive, staging a slapdash
wedding ceremony with his girlfriend of
three months as a pretext for rounding up
all the relatives.
Wang’s directorial control of mood and
character growth are astounding. She tasks
herself with balancing an ensemble cast of
aunts, uncles and cousins and succeeds with
a grace rarely equaled since classic ‘90s
dramedies like Eat Drink Man Woman, while
mining even richer veins of emotion. And
many of the most aching emotions belong
to the conflicted Billi. So how is Awkwafina
in her first dramatic role?
Combining the best of Awkwafina’s slouchy,
easygoing comic persona with a deeply satisfying
emotional arc, both star and director
deserve immense credit for bringing Billi to
screen. I don’t want to spoil the finer points
of Billi’s journey. Just know that it’s a lovely
exploration of the disorienting effects of
distance and time, particularly for a child of
immigrants -- even in an era when geographical
realities can be somewhat, though never
entirely, overcome by a phone call.
After its premiere at the Sundance Film
Festival, The Farewell was picked up by the
much-celebrated distribution company A24,
which is known for visually splendid critical
darlings of all genres such as Moonlight,
Lady Bird, Eighth Grade and Hereditary.
It will be a long time before any of us are
willing to say farewell to the conversations
(and careers!) that will be launched by this
clever, compassionate modern classic.
The Farewell is now playing at ArcLight
Hollywood and the Landmark. •
The Farewell, Courtesy of A24
Rock Stars at Home
By Roz Templin, Library Assistant,
El Segundo Public Library
What fun to look through this book, Rock
Stars at Home. Stuffed with pictures, it contains
interesting trivia about the musicians and their
environments. The introduction features a full
page black and white photo of Alice Cooper
with his wife and daughter poolside at their
1970s Hollywood home, but it isn’t a glamour
shot unless you’re from Mars!
The contributors were fair in selecting the
folks featured: From Frank Sinatra, Chuck
Berry and Elvis to The Jacksons, Sonny and
Cher and Neil Young. Elton John and Freddie
Mercury have their pages with more familiar
faces sprinkled throughout.
I learned that one of Frank Sinatra’s Palm
Springs homes had a special pool: Piano-shaped,
it was designed in a manner that when the sun
hit openings in the veranda at a particular angle,
shadows formed piano keys on the sidewalk. He
also built and operated his own model railroad.
Another section includes Ike and Tina
Turner’s former Los Angeles area home
in Inglewood. A photograph of the couple
standing near a portrait of themselves really
tells their story. the painting shows a smiling
couple, but the real Ike in the picture is
staring daggers at the photographer as Tina
tries to maintain a brave front.
My favorite part is the spotlight on Keith
Richards. He owned many homes after his
and the Rolling Stones’ ascent to stardom, but
his current primary home is in Connecticut
-- 8,000 square feet on eight acres. He set up
a huge library that houses a vast collection of
ultra-rare books and even considered “training”
so he could catalog his books according
to the Dewey Decimal system. I have a new
fondness for him and his love of literature.
Another part of the book has an article entitled
The Laurel Canyon Scene, which presents the
singer/songwriter community in the late 1960s
and 1970s. My friend Henry Diltz’s photo of
Mama Cass on a motorcycle taken on Woodrow
Wilson Drive in 1968 graces this section. This
is a nice companion piece to a film now in
release called Echo in the Canyon, also about
that particular moment in time.
I love Sonny and Cher and thought I knew
a lot about them, but this book gave me a new
bit of esoteric info about their mansion in the
Hollywood Hills. I knew that they bought the
villa on Carolwood Drive from Tony Curtis,
another favorite of mine, but didn’t know the
circumstances. According to contributor Eddi
Fiegel, the couple were invited to a party
at Tony’s home in 1967. Cher told Sonny,
“Someday, we’re going to live right here.” It
was built in 1936 and had 10 bedrooms and a
dozen bathrooms and had previously belonged
to Engelbert Humperdinck and Esther Williams.
The guesthouse was rumored to have housed
Marilyn Monroe in the 1940s.
Peruse chapters on haunted houses and
magic mansions, punk digs and dives and a
spread on the heavy metal musicians of the
‘80s. I have no doubt you will enjoy your
time turning the pages.
Rock Stars and Home contributors included
Chris Charlesworth, Daryl Easlea, Eddi
Fiegel, Bryan Reesman, Colin Salter and
Simon Spence. •
Rock Starts at Home
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