An Oddball Conduit to Self-Discovery
BY SEAN EGAN | After years of being a genre of choice for low-budget auteurs and mini-majors alike, it’s safe to say that, at this point, the “indie-coming-of-age dramedy” has certain tropes and narrative beats firmly entrenched in its DNA. The filmmakers behind “Chu and Blossom” know and use just about every trick in the playbook. Fortunately, for the viewer, they have enough of a unique perspective to twist the genre into something that feels fresh.
FILM | CHU AND BLOSSOM
At The Asian American
International Film Festival
Written by Charles Chu and Ryan O’Nan
Directed by Charles Chu and Gavin Kelly
Runtime: 104 minutes
Tues., July 29 at 8:30 p.m.
At City Cinemas Village East
Second Ave. & 12th St.
$11 for students/seniors/disabled
Opening as Joon Chu (co-writer and co-director Charles Chu), a Korean exchange student with a strict upbringing, arrives in America, the film follows the tried-and-true narrative of self-discovery. The conduit for this is the unlikely friendship Joon strikes up with Butch Blossom (co-writer Ryan O’Nan) — an oddball performance artist who lives to rebel against small-town life. Along the way he meets the requisite love interest, Cherry Swade, and begins to embrace an artistic side that puts him in conflict with the path his parents wish him to take.
Familiar dramedy has excellent cast, unexpected laughs
There are times when “Chu and Blossom” threatens to become a tad too predictable and obvious — the romance, fights and triumphs all come at their expected junctures. The ignorant denizens of the town are a little too cartoonish with their casual racism, and some of the conflicts feel forced. The characters are also a little archetypal (especially Cherry, who veers dangerously close to being a generic manic-pixie dream girl).
But it’s easy to overlook these faults when it gets so much else right. Chu and co-director Gavin Kelly favor steady, Wes Anderson-esque shots which, when combined with the slightly saturated photography, create a distinctly light and whimsical feel. The cast is also uniformly excellent. Alan Cumming steals scenes in a bit role as Blossom’s flamboyantly gay uncle — all southern drawl and sass. There are a number of genuinely unexpected laughs derived from O’Nan’s wonky, energetic performance. And as Joon, Chu anchors the film, wringing both laughs and pathos out of his character’s language barrier and expressive face. Together, they make for an entertaining and effective odd couple whose chemistry and offbeat rhythms elevate the film. The end result is a charming, indie-dramedy that sets itself apart, even when playing by the rules.