My American Vacation

Tsai Chin (The Joy Luck Club) plays a Taiwanese matron invited by her two daughters to celebrate her 70th birthday with them in the States. The Americanized sisters are frustrated and don’t get along, but the older one insists on renting a star-spangled RV for a trip to Colorado so that the family–which also includes her daughter and her sister’s husband–can see the country on the way. Writer-director V.V. Dachin Hsu has a keen ear for how different generations in a Chinese-American family speak, and while her characters verge on caricature–the gentle but stubborn matriarch, the bossy older daughter (Kim Miyori), the sensitive, put-upon younger daughter (Deborah Nishimura) and her exasperated yuppie husband (Dennis Dun)–they’re fleshed out by the seasoned, likable actors. This 1999 film is funniest when Chin tries to adjust to outlandish American customs, but despite a maudlin tendency, its moments of tenderness are the most effective. Also on the program is Love, Ltd. (1999), a short by Jennifer Thuy Lan Phang about a middle-class family whose children reveal they’re gay, to the mother’s consternation. It’s supposed to be a comedy about reticence and taboo breaking, but it’s too coy to be funny. Hsu will attend the screening; both films are showing as part of the fifth annual Asian American Showcase, presented Friday and Saturday, April 7 and 8, by the Film Center and the Foundation for Asian American Independent Media. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, April 8, 8:00, 773-871-1977 or 312-443-3737.

–Ted Shen