Sunday, January 10, 2021

Definition Please - Movie Review

The Movie: Definition Please

The Director: Sujata Day

The Cast: Sujata Day, Ritesh Rajan, Jake Choi, Lalaine, Parvesh Cheena, Tim Chiou, Katrina Bowden, LeVar Burton

The Story: A former Scribbs Spelling Bee champion must reconcile with her estranged brother when he returns home to help care for their sick mother.

The Review:
If we learned one thing about movies during all the events of 2020 it's that representation really matters and I'm not talking about token representation, I mean real characters having authentic cinematic experiences. After watching this movie, it's pretty clear that director Sujata Day would agree with this as her film tells a story about an Indian family in America just existing as an Indian family in America. There's no tokenism or stereotyped cardboard cutouts that you would normally see show up in movie after movie, just real people living their lives. It really doesn't matter who you are or where you come from, Day allows you the opportunity to see yourself in her characters and that's kind of a brilliant thing to accomplish.

I think the beauty of Day's writing, yes she wrote, directed, and stars in the movie, is that the family really could be anyone from anywhere in America regardless of ethnic background. The ground she covers includes things that any family might deal with and that every family has probably dealt with at some point making it extremely relatable. Within that, the strength of the story is the characters, who they are, and how they interact. Day's character Monica is one of those people who was targeted for success at a very young age, I mean she was spelling bee champion so of course she's going to go on to fame and fortune, right? It's interesting to see how Day explores who the character is having not lived up to those lofty expectations.

From there, the story branches out into family and cultural expectations and how those expectations can have a lasting impact on a person's life. This leads to some of the more dramatic and emotional moments of the movie as they play out between family members and I think they are essential to why the story works as well as it does. Before you start thinking that this movie is some heavy handed drama, I will say that it is very much a light hearted comedy that also takes time to really dig into things like mental health and dysfunctional family dynamics.

The interactions between Monica and her brother Sonny, played by Ritesh Rajan, are really the heart of the movie and also a source of both drama and comedy so it's a very interesting dynamic to explore. On top of that, we also get a strong performance from Anna Khaja who plays the matriarch of the family and a woman who represents both the traditions and customs of South Asian American culture and the westernized American culture. It was also fun to see a cameo appearance from LeVar Burton who Day worked with on This is My Story, a series of short films that focused on real life experiences of racial profiling. Final casting note. Fans of the Lizzie McGuire TV series will recognize Monica's best friend Krista in this movie as she is played by Lalaine, the singer and actress who was also best friend to Lizzie on that show. 

The Verdict:
Definition Please spells out the ups and downs of a dysfunctional family in a very lighthearted yet meaningful way. Overall, I feel like this was a great directorial feature debut for Sujata Day and I look forward to seeing more films from her that are just as authentic and focused on representation.

The Interview:
Sujata Day has such a passion for filmmaking, for representation, and for her hometown of Greenburg, Pennsylvania and we got to talk about all of it. I was so happy to have Sujata on board to help kick off the Changing Directions interview series as she exemplifies exactly what these conversations are all about.

Listen now and/or download on your favorite podcast format listed below

Changing Directions is a podcast interview series focused on diverse and emerging filmmakers who are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible for women and minorities while creating amazing films. 

No comments :

Post a Comment

The Hot List