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Forgotten Gems: The Wedding Banquet

It’s almost Spring! Not even your doubled-up Covid masks can protect you from that creeping feeling that soon we’ll all be back out in the world. And you know what THAT means! Dating. Dinners out with your special someone. Romance, in person, not on Zoom. Just this morning I thought to myself, Self? What’s the most romantic movie of all time?

The answer that popped immediately into my head surprised me. It’s a film I haven’t thought about in years, maybe decades. And yet my subconscious was clearly storing it for me, waiting for just the right moment, the exact right question. What’s the most romantic movie of all time?

It is Ang Lee’s The Wedding Banquet.

Released in 1993, this little film was one of Lee’s first movies, before Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, before The Ice Storm, before Sense and Sensibility and Brokeback Mountain. But once you’d seen The Wedding Banquet, you knew already that Lee was one of the best directors working. A friend of mine at the time described it as “a perfect movie,” and those don’t come along very often.

This is a story of tradition versus change, expectations versus desire, the old country versus the new, the elder generation versus the young. But there’s nothing cliched in the tale or the characters. People surprise you with their understanding and acceptance of not only one another, but of the confusing situations in which they find themselves and of the fact that nothing here can be neatly resolved. In spite of all the difficulties, the one thing that doesn’t change is the underlying love. There is a generosity of spirit exuded by so many of the characters that it becomes the defining trait of the film itself.

Love. It’s everywhere in The Wedding Banquet.

The love of partners in life, whether it’s romantic.

…platonic

…or some messy version of both.

The love of parents for their children, even when they don’t understand one another.

The love of children for their parents, even the parents who didn’t raise them.

And most of all, the unexpected ways people find to demonstrate that love.

The Wedding Banquet is a love story–an ode to love in all its forms, whether it’s sexual, platonic, filial, or some happy stew of them all. Because really, that’s what a life lived with love is–a happy stew. And what’s more romantic than that?

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Written By

Laura J. Burns writes books, writes for TV, and sometimes writes TV based on books and books based on TV. She's the managing editor of The Gist.

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