User Reviews (25)

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  • This movie was a nice little picture about a group of Asans living in Canada and they all seemed like nice people, despite the differences in how they adapt to living in a new land. The parents are very traditional and want their daughter to marry a traditional Chinese man. I like their portrayal because they want what's best for her and are not ogres. The daughter, who is NOT tradition-bound wants to make her own way in life and resists her parents by "doing her own thing" when they aren't looking.

    The acting and writing is excellent, as the story rings true to life. If you like this movie, I strongly recommend EAT, DRINK, MAN WOMAN--a Taiwanese film that covers some of the same ground but seems to do an even better job (if that's even possible!).

    NOTE: since first reviewing this movie, I saw BOLLYWOOD/Hollywood. It's another Canadian film but this time instead of focusing on Chinese culture, it concerns Indian culture. It, too, involves the older generations pushing their kids NOT to marry Caucasians but find a nice boy or girl from back home. Very similar and just as wonderful as DOUBLE HAPPINESS. Watch them both!
  • SnoopyStyle26 August 2016
    Twenty-two year old Chinese-Canadian Jade Li (Sandra Oh) lives with her sister and traditional parents. She's an aspiring actress but nobody believes in her. Her parents try to help her consider other pursuits like TV reporter. The director wants her to do a Chinese accent. Lisa is her best friend. She's waiting in a line of one outside a club. She is joined by awkward white grad student Mark and they start dating. She has to keep it a secret from her parents who sets her up with Chinese boy Andrew. Andrew is actually gay. They are visited by uncle Hong who surprisingly is eager to learn western ways.

    This is a small Canadian indie with mostly amateurs doing the heavy lifting. Sandra Oh is the only name the public would recognize. It's fitting since Jade is one of those amateurs trying to break into acting. Sandra Oh delivers a nice shining lead performance. This has many of the indie tropes but they are fresh coming from different voices.
  • Humor and pathos are mixed in this study of the cultural and social clashes between a Chinese-Canadian daughter and her traditional parents. Sometimes give and take are not the solution. Not the easiest movie to watch. Sandra Oh shows much promise. Also in the cast are:Daniel Fong, Greg Chen, Alannah Ong and Claudette Carracedo.
  • Jade ( Oh Sandra) wants to be an actress, but of course, her traditional parents want her to meet a nice successful, chinese guy and settle down. Well, she DOES meet a nice caucasian guy... and spends the night. Oh, the scandal. And she kind of falls for him. But she's too afraid to tell the parentals that he's not chinese. So she chickens out. She strikes out at her acting audition, so she's having a bad week all around. But then she really connects with her uncle when they have a good conversation about what is important. Is it so vital to try to please the family and give up your own desires? Values have changed so much in just a generation. It's good. Moves a bit slow, but that's okay. Very well done. Written and directed by Mina Shum; she has won many film fest awards!
  • =G=24 August 2003
    Sandra Oh is at the center of "Double Happiness", a dramady about a Chinese twenty-something immigrant living with her family in Canada, struggling to find work as an actress, while being torn between the ways of the West and the traditional values of her dogmatic parents. An award winning film with nominally satisfactory reviews, this little budget-conscious effort is fraught with low end production value, scenes which simply don't work (like the incredibly unprofessional casting call with a Hong Kong company rep), bad jokes (like the peanut thing, the phone number thing, etc.), mediocre music, zero atmospherics (meeting your boyfriend at a construction site??), a poor ending, and a general absence of auterusmanship. Nonetheless, "Double Happiness" limps along with some poignant moments, a giggle here, some angst there, and maybe even a sentimental pang now and then. An okay cable watch for anyone with time to spare who's in the mood for a Chinese-Canadian generation gap flick.

    Note - I have always thought Oh was much more skilled than she was marketable. It's nice to see her in a leading role and though she doesn't nail all of her nuances in this flick, the responsibility for that probably belongs with the director. (C+)
  • Jade (Sandra Oh, before she was a household name) is a Chinese Canadian gal who is searching for the elusive "double happiness". This is the concept of pleasing your parents and pleasing yourself with life's big choices, like marriage and career. So far, Jade is struggling with both. At 22, she is an aspiring actress, with a few jobs under her belt, but she can't move to her own place. Her parents forbid it before marriage. Naturally, there is little privacy at home, especially with a curious younger sister, Pearl. Further, her parents are forever arranging dates with her and their choices leave her cool. One of these matchmade gents even tells Jade of his unhappiness at such manipulation, too. Therefore, when Jade meets a nice Caucasian fellow outside a club, Mark, she lets herself experience a one night stand but sneaks out before morning. Yet, he's all she thinks about and, lo and behold, they meet again. Realizing her parents will probably reject him as a husband, as they have already disowned older brother Winston for his bad choices, how can Jade not break it off with Mark? Can Mom and Dad really endure another whammy at their hopes and dreams? This well made film is not really a happy experience, although there is some humor. Even so, it is an enlightening, thoughtful movie with plenty to ponder. Most children have a hard time meeting their parents expectations but for the Chinese, honoring parents is even more important than most. For transplanted Asians in the West, where freedom of choice is all around, this sometimes brings sad results. Oh, as the main character, is wonderful but so are the supporting actors around her. Then, too, the Canadian scenery, costumes, and other amenities are first rate. One must concede, however, that the story, with its careful direction, is the most important, gripping aspect to the movie. No, you won't get a "double happy high" by finding this flick but your understanding of parent-child relationships will undeniably make a difference in your life and the lives of your loved ones.
  • Mina Shum wrote and directed this story of a Chinese-Canadian family in Vancouver with the central character being Jade (Sandra Oh). Jade's father Quo (Stephen Chang) is very strict about his children following old Chinese traditions and if they don't then they are disowned by him. So Jade actually tries to live two separate lives, one an obedient daughter who goes along with her fathers wishes (For the most part) and when she is out with her friends she can be a normal woman in her early 20's who talk about boys and goes to clubs. Jade wants to be an actress much to the chagrin of her parents and she goes out on auditions. One night she meets a man named Mark who is white and they have a one night stand. Jade's parents do not know him at first and fix her up on dates with Chinese men. They're is some excellent visual imagery in the film and in one scene Jade and Mark are on swings and the shot is in slow motion with a good and effective musical score to enhance the visual flair. In another scene a fed up Jade gets out of the car of another date and starts to run down the street. We are not told where she is running to but we must assume its to Mark. Sandra Oh's performance seems to be flawless. Watching her character ultimately give up trying to please her father is just riveting to watch. I've always been a big fan of Oh's and I thought she was equally terrific in "Dancing at the Blue Iguana". Oh takes the character of Jade and makes her not only smart and strong, but makes her very human also! When a casting director asks her how could she possibly think of herself as Chinese if she cannot read it, Jade at this point in the film questions herself and ultimately comes to a life changing decision. Mina Shums script is sharp and she doesn't portray Jade's parents as one dimensional. They have issues as well and it affects the lives of their children. Well written script gives Oh the opportunity to give a totally convincing and haunting performance.
  • This was a cute, sweet small movie about a Chinese-Canadian woman caught between her dreams and her father's expectations. Complaints about the film center on what some see as the director's one-sided depiction of the anti-assimilation viewpoint. Jade's father is so concerned that his children live within the constricts of traditional Chinese culture that he cuts off contact with them entirely if they stray. But Mina Shum (the director) never claims that his rigidity is the rule; the story is about how Jade deals with the specific situation, and it makes no claim that her situation is pervasive. Other Asian characters have different levels of acceptance of Western openness: Jade's mother, while not openly defying her husband, maintains contact with her son whom his father has cut off completely. So "Double Happiness" isn't an anti-Asian traditionalism screed, as some have claimed, neither is it an Everywoman story of freedom as some seem to want it to be. It's simply Jade's story about choosing between her dreams and the man she's falling in love with against her father's uncompromising worldview.

    Mechanically, the movie is good if not a masterpiece. The performances are excellent. Sandra Oh is charged with almost singlehandedly winning over the viewer, and she's completely up to the challenge. All performances are (as far as I can tell anyway) wonderfully authentic. This was Callum Keith Rennie's first major role, and he's as awkward, sweet, and appealing as ever. The interstitial scenes of characters speaking to the camera are an interesting experiment--a good tool for revealing character, they nevertheless are sometimes jarring. Overall, the film is like a compact colorful flower: it won't dominate the landscape but it richly awards the lucky soul whose attention it captures.
  • jtur8813 August 2003
    This picture is really just Sandra Oh. If you fall in love with her (as I did, even in her other pics), the film is a delight. Otherwise, there isn't much there. But Sandra Oh has that wonderful inexplicable quality of making you just want to be there with her, and watching this movie is rather like watching a bad film with Sandra sitting on the sofa next to you, quipping like the bots on MST3K.
  • I really liked this movie! I am not from an Asian-American family, so I cannot say with certainty that this was `true to life', but from what I hear it's pretty close. Jade is immensely likeable and cool, as is her younger sister Pearl. The problem I had with this film was the relationship between Jade and Mark... I feel like we barely got to know him, and I didn't feel like really `rooting' for them as a couple. Thinking back now, I can barely remember anything about Mark. But all in all a delightful film..
  • Bishonen26 October 1998
    It's good to see an Asian woman's perspective in a film, especially an indie production with really great cinematography and music. And Sandra Oh is really a talent to watch out for!

    This film is however a real disappointment in its narrow-mindedness with regards to the lead character's dilemma; the fact that Jade is Western-identified isn't so much a problem as director Mina Shum deals effectively with issues of being trapped between conflicting cultural values and personal expectations. But the character's (and, by extension, the writer/director's) unquestioning perception of the Chinese family structure as limiting and oppressive undermines the drama's effectiveness as a character study. The film seems to be trapped in a dialectic of "White Guy Good/Asian Man Bad"…Shum's deterministic view of Asian males as "The Oppressor" comes front and center when she won't even show the faces of the Asian men Jade is "forced" by her parents to date, compared to her wimpy, non-threatening Caucasian boyfriend who's still vastly more appealing than these faceless goons her parents set her up with. Shum won't even show the faces of Jade's Asian dates: they're portrayed as less than human as they lead Jade to her doom in the passenger seat of their luxury cars. By dehumanizing the Asian men and rendering Jade's father as a one-dimensional all-purpose oppressor, Shum weakens the film as a study of a character's struggle to overcome her circumstances. Jade becomes a misunderstood victim, and the film becomes a shallow exercise in whining and unresolved cultural anomie.

    Skip it...see Ang Lee's "Life On A String" for a really great vision of Eastern/Western cultural conflicts.
  • I would be the first to admit that I didn't have high hope about this movie. My first reaction upon hearing this movie is that it is just another nagging movie. And since I am an overseas-born and raised Chinese Canadian who didn't move to Canada till midway through my adolescent years, I have to confess that I don't have much sympathy toward those who were born in Canada or moved here when they were very young. I had always felt that they were a lucky bunch, since they didn't have to go through what I'd been struggling through. Hence I was blind to see their problems and the challenges they face in their lives. Gradually, as I grew older I was able to realize this. Therefore, 5 years after its release I finally have a chance (and am willing) to view this movie.

    Although the plot shouldn't have been surprising and unfamiliar to most Chinese living outside the Chinese region, what I think that makes this movie stands out is on the ways how the director expressed each ideas. For instance, I am touched on how Mina Shum portrays the ideal date set up by the parents-successful PROFESSIONALS who always drive a nice car (mama's good boys as well): at the later portion of the movie, this ideal date(or mate as the parents would hope for) was represented only by his back and his car-he didn't even talk. By doing this, the director really sends out the message that it doesn't matter who you date since these guys are all the same in general; in a way one can even argue that in Chinese philosophy, the existence of affection and marriage are based on material access.

    Anyway I don't want to turn this comment into a debate of Chinese value vs. the West. Back to the movie: I do think Mina Shum did a very good job in presenting her concepts and ideas in this movie, though I have trouble understanding one screen in which a waiter spilled water all over Jade's set up date-that really puzzle me;maybe some of you can solve this for me.

    Before I wrap up this comment, I just want to point out that the Li's family sort of represent the whole Chinese community combined-but not the individual family; I mean I am sure that most family would only act in few similar ways as does the Li's family in Double Happiness, but most family don't act in all the ways being described by the movie (I hope not)...but then I guess you guys would notice that too....well I would make these comments just in case.
  • This is for the user who was puzzled by the scene in which someone pours water on the date with whom she was set up. He has taken her from the restaurant to a bar where all the other patrons are men. She realizes that it's a gay bar and that's the way he has chosen to tell her that he did not choose to take her out anymore than she chose to go out with him and that they are both in the same boat, i.e., leading double lives. The person who pours water on him apparently does so to rebuke him for being with a woman.

    I was particularly interested by the reviewers who are of Chinese or other East Asian descent and who resonated to the predicament of the heroine. It reminds me somewhat of the original of Fiddler on the Roof, in which the daughter who runs of with a gentile is mourned as if dead by Tevye and his family.
  • Double Happiness is a very realistic look at Asian family values and personal values. Sandra Oh as the cheeky Jade Li was excellent. The actor that played her first date Andrew was great too. I was amused at the outcome of this pairing.I was very impressed by Callum Rennie, who played Jade's caucasian boyfriend Mark. There's a quite funny scene between these two that involves a talk about bad clam chowder and "fascist" bouncers. The chemistry/tension between Jade and Mark was great. The rest of the family was great too. Truly a must see movie about relationships.
  • This movie was an interesting look into the life of a Chinese family in North America. I think the characters were written and portrayed in a believable, sensitive manner. The subtle, reserved, underplaying of the parents I think is sometimes mistaken as one-dimensionality, but really reflects a traditional and reserved nature that they were trying to maintain. Their expectations for their now westernized children, and the dilemmas that arise, are also evidence of that. It is not a case of right versus wrong, but novel versus traditional. As for the conflict of introducing Jade Li's main love interest as a Caucasian, I also don't believe that was intended to pit white people as good versus Asian people as bad. I think that the juxtaposition of the two lifestyles presents Jade's two major conflicts: her desire to lead a more Western life, with freedom to make many non-traditional choices, and her feelings of love, respect, and loyalty toward her traditional parents, whom she would not want to bring shame or betrayal. A life with one of the Asian suitors would symbolize her choice to remain under the guidelines of restraint her heritage suggests and their families demand.

    One aspect I feel especially overlooked about this film dealt with Jade's big audition with the woman from Hong Kong. While Jade was brought up in a Chinese home in North America, she could understand and speak some Cantonese, but had many Western interests. But because she could not read Cantonese, this duality did not bring the success one might hope having the benefits of two cultures would bring. As the child of an Asian father and American mother (but raised almost entirely American, I'll admit), I found that scene very interesting.

    I think this film was wonderful, and that one need not have a particular interest in Asian families to appreciate the family and social relationships, conflicts, and hopes portrayed in Double Happiness.
  • Mina Shum's Double Happiness bravely explores a group that mainstream film (read: Hollywood) continues to ignore: Asians in North America. That the film features strong acting, good writing and confident direction makes its accomplishments all the more greater.

    You don't need to be Asian to enjoy this film, anymore than you have to be Italian to watch The Godfathers. Young women of whatever ethnic backgrounds are bound to identify with the lead character, finely played by Sandra Oh. The daughter-father conflict crosses all national boundaries, and is explored in this film through the eyes of Chinese-Canadians.

    I'm a Canadian of Chinese descent, and found the characterizations of the family to be accurate overall. At times, the domineering Father is one-dimensional (tyrannical and cold) and needed to be fleshed out more. The role of the siblings--especially towards their parents--was underplayed and could have offered a contrast to the main relationship between the elder daughter and Dad.

    Still, the strict traditionalism of the parents was on the nose, and the struggles of the daughter, Jade, ring true. In fact, I venture to say that Jade was played *too* obediently, and should have broken from her family sooner.

    Following this line of thought, the film could have been expanded to explore Jade moving into her own home and finding her own career as an actress, then reconciling (perhaps) with her stern Father at the end.

    As it stands, the movie ends abruptly and too soon. Shum and Oh do a fine job of getting Jade on the audience's side, only pull the carpet on her just as she leaves home. The movie begs for closure in the relationship between daughter and father.

    Perhaps in the sequel.
  • An under-appreciated film (as many Canadian films are), Double Happiness expresses brilliantly the tightrope one often has to walk between pleasing others and pleasing oneself. Jade Li, portrayed masterfully by neophyte Sandra Oh, must choose between her desires for love and stardom and her desire to please her demanding, suffocating, ultra-traditional Chinese father. Her life complicates when she meets a sweet English major named Mark, played by Callum Keith Rennie, a hidden treasure of an actor; the scenes between Jade and Mark dynamically reflect the most uncertain nature in love, an uncertainty which often makes love all the more worth fighting for. Yet, there is a subtlety in the way writer/director Mina Shum presents Jade's nervous breakdown of a life, a subtlety which craftily creates the effect of slowly drawing the viewer into the spiralling life of Jade. With its powerful, yet simplistic (in the Hal Hartley vein) direction and tremendous performances, Double Happiness stands as a remarkable film which deserves more attention. Pity!
  • While the title is something of a misnomer, this well-written, superbly acted coming-of-age tale is undoubtedly one of the best films of its genre. It is unique, original, funny, intelligent, beautiful, and inspiring. In short, it is Canadian. Sandra Oh, one of the most emotionally devastating actresses of our time, plays liberated dreamer Jade Li who hopes to escape the suffocating environment of her over-bearing parents' expectations and become an actress.

    Double Happiness delves into all of its components with equal sensitivity and skill. Jade is the very essence of youth's wanderlust and creative vitality, her parents the quintessential picture of over-protective cultural transplants. Jade's young sister Pearl is the go-between, lovingly supportive of her sister's blossoming talent while resentful of the rift it creates within the family. Already rent from their disowned brother (who committed similar indiscretions), Jade must walk the thin line between traditional Chinese values and enlightened Canadian independence. While quietly entertaining her dramatic ambitions, she begins to kindle a forbidden love affair with a young Caucasian man which ultimately forces her to choose between loyalty to her father and loyalty to her own dreams.

    If you are like me and expect a literal interpretation of the title, the ending will leave you wondering exactly who came up with it and where you might write to his or her employers to ask to have him or her severely reprimanded, but this in no way diminishes the fine accomplishments by the cast and crew in making Double Happiness a work of cinematic art. Callum Keith Rennie as Jade's lover is heart-breakingly perfect in his first major feature role and Sandra Oh is nothing short of Oscar-worthy--but I guess Genies will have to do for now.
  • ivw27 May 1999
    Several parts of this movie really spoke to me. As a Thai-American in a similar situation to Jade's, I laughed many times and nearly cried several times at scenes in this movie because of how close it hit home for myself. I disagree with other user's comments that the film is too myopic. This movie obviously deals with very personal feelings, and I would only expect Mina Shum to create a film reflecting her point of view. To make it far-reaching and covering several other viewpoints would dilute the film's vision and make it seem less honest and direct than it does.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Double Happiness" is a very disappointing first feature from director Mina Shum.

    The characters thin, the writing lackluster, and the direction uninspired, this film received attention due to its "ethnic" subject matter at a number of festivals upon its release in 1995. "Double Happiness" garnered favorable reviews from a handful of critics who, in the progressive world of cinema and media arts, were probably reluctant to note the film's many flaws for fear of being labeled insensitive to Asian culture. (It was this critical attention that probably managed to secure the film limited distribution in North America.)

    However, despite a strong performance by newcomer Sandra Oh (HBO's "Arliss") and strong lensing, there's little to distinguish this empty comedy from the myriad of low budget features that, deservedly, never find an audience. There's little originality in "Double Happiness" and that's a shame. This reviewer won't give away any spoilers, but suffice it to say the story moves along at an expectable pace, and every story beat and and plot point comes in a paint-by-the numbers fashion. Jade Lee is the free-spririted, hip young woman in conflict with her traditional family. She must stand up for herself and seek her own identity. That's probably a compelling story but, in "Double Happiness," it's one not well told. Rather than portraying the character and theme through real development of character, conflict and emotion, we're given about 90 minutes stiff dialogue and forced drama/comedy. This story deserved better and so did the audience. A real shame indeed.
  • Complete low budget rubbish about multiculturalism and how we she care more about Chiense decent people that Canadian rights. You sould see how low bduget the store is. We have had firearms that cost more than this movie.
  • monk-816 October 1998
    This was a great, great, movie!
  • borah28 October 1998
    The dynamics of this Chinese family were incredible. Well written, well acted. A fresh approach to the "single life" story. Sandra Oh is very likable. Callum Rennie as "Mark" was an excellent cast.
  • I'm Korean and was dying to see a movie with Sandra Oh, my favorite Korean actor (yeah, like there are a ton of them out there!). Anyway, I liked the film, but I didn't think there was anything too special about it. I gave it a seven. I write screenplays in my spare time and would love to work with Ms. Mina Shum someday! I don't know, just something about it didn't sit too well with me. I was just an average film, with much needed Asian content! To whoever's reading this, sorry that it's so vague!
  • americanthighs2 April 2000
    This is an excellent movie portraying the struggle of any Asian child: personal goals over family expectations. Every one of us go through Jade's life and it's a very challenging goal. It's impossible to please yourself and please your family at the same time. As an Asian kid myself, I strongly advise for you to do whatever makes you happy.