Critics' Pick

White Frog (NR)

93 May 10, 2013
By Ernest Hardy
At its heart, director Quentin Lee's White Frog is about how Asian-American youth circumvent the academic pressures and career expectations of their parents, whether those kids are golden children or something of a disappointment. When Chaz (Harry Shum Jr.), the adored eldest son in an upper-middle-class Asian family, is killed, his grief-stricken younger brother, Nick (Booboo Stewart), a high school freshman with Asperger's, starts sleuthing to find out what was beneath the façade. He discovers a secret life in which his brother’s multi-culti crew gamble, booze, and generally act out all the tired hetero male tropes of pop culture, but he also discovers his brother's secret career dreams and altruistic side. Director Lee, working from a script by mother and daughter Fabienne and Ellie Wen, shot the film like an old Afterschool Special; it's bright, crisp, and clean, with colors engineered to pop. The dialogue is all on the nose, both in terms of storytelling and character psychology, while the cast (including B. D. Wong and Joan Chen as the parents, and the legendary Amy Hill as a therapist) conveys every thought and emotion in broad, un-nuanced strokes. That's not to say they're bad. But this is storytelling in the service of making a cultural and political statement. There's no room for shadow or subtext, or layered artistry, even as we're taken into a secret life and ostensibly more complex psyche.
Quentin Lee Booboo Stewart, Harry Shum Jr., BD Wong, Joan Chen, Kelly Hu, Gregg Sulkin, Tyler Posey, Manish Dayal, Justin Martin, Talulah Riley Ellie Wen, Fabienne Wen Ellie Wen, Christopher Lee, Joel Soisson Wolfe Releasing

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