Some people swing towards chicken, others to duck, but sometimes its takes time and experience for individuals to figure out their preference. Jen’s youngest son is one such confused soul, unsure whether he’s sexually drawn to the new age femme from Europe or his bicycling playmate from the sandpit days … or neither, or both. Meanwhile, Kim Chui knows he’s in love with Jen but she stubbornly refuses to get involved with another man, and certainly not with the owner of the restuarant just down the street. Sylvia Chang’s Jen is thus the nexus of the plot. She assertively arbitrates and negotiates the desires of the men in her life, much to their annoyance but ever so faithful devotion. Jen’s restricted idea of a successful relationship (heterosexual, one that separates business from pleasure) is the critical issue the plot seeks to resolve — how can she be persuaded to redefine her personal sexual beliefs? Happily for lovers of films about food, the answer is substanially revealed through the well trodden convention of the cooking competition. However, this isn’t a film that successfully steadily builds to an emotional climax. While that’s usually a problem for light comic melodrama, I thought that the sincere intentions and nourishing sentiments of Rice Rhapsody shined through its structural flaws. While I have major reservations about its quality as an aesthetic work, this production’s depiction of ‘dysfuntional’ familial units and their crises is engaging and interestingly diverse (motherhood, sole-parent family, disparate brothers, step-father in waiting, absent husband/father), a jumble of out of control identities that, depicted in the one place, feel strangely refreshing. Given the general warmth of the audience’s reaction, perhaps within this film’s multitude of natural problematic circumstances there is someone or something that many of us can relate to.
Fans of ‘Yan Can Cook’ will rejoice at the casting of Martin Yan as Kim Chui — check out the opening sequence for the real deal’s performance on the chopping board! One of the impressive revelations of this movie is that Yan Can Act … though, how hard can it be to ‘pretend’ to be in love, platonic or otherwise, with Sylvia Chang?
Those seeking coherent narrative progression may be disappointed with some of the meanderings, sentimentality and corny moments, but risk takers not prone to smashing their TVs at the slightest provocation could well enjoy this as an oddly unpredictable viewing experience.