Double Happiness: Mina Shu’s Tale of Chinese-Canadian, Starring Sandra Oh

Canadian director Mina Shum made a strong impression with her debut feature, Double Happiness, starring Sandra Oh as Jade Li, an artist struggling to assert her independence from the expectations of her Chinese Canadian family.

Oh deservedly won the Genie Award (Canadian Oscar) for Best Performance by an Actress for this film.

Oh plays Jade Li, a feisty, 22 year old Chinese-Canadian aspiring actress who lives at home with her traditional Chinese family: her strict father (Stephen Chang), her dutiful mother (Alannah Ong), and her sweet younger sister, Pearl (Frances You). Their older brother, Winston, has been disowned — a fate Jade is not eager to share, both for her own sake and to spare her family pain.

Her family tries to put on the perfect public persona at all costs so as to maintain their dignity as well as uphold their traditional Chinese values. One primary part of this persona is prosperity. Jade’s father hopes that true financial prosperity will become reality through penny stocks.

Jade, meanwhile, tries to achieve that happy medium between giving in to her parent’s wishes and fulfilling her own needs and desires – double happiness. Therefore, although she manages to land a few bit parts on camera, Jade spends most of her time working in the shop owned by a family friend, performing the duties of a respectful daughter and suffering through arranged dates with prosperous young Chinese men. An adept cultural chameleon, though, she also leads a double life, hanging out with best friend Lisa (Claudette Carracedo).

When her father’s childhood friend arrives for a visit, however, Jade must juggle her competing identities even more carefully than usual, lest her choice of professions — and boyfriends — shame her father. Because of its instability, Jade’s parents don’t understand or widely publicize Jade’s aspirations to be an actress. Their main want for Jade is to date and marry a nice Chinese boy, a goal for which Jade’s extended family also strives as they are always trying to introduce her to Chinese boys.

Initially, they believe that the boy is Andrew, with who Jade even agrees to go out. But Jade, beyond wanting to be an actress, wishes her family had more western sensibilities. She is attracted to a slightly awkward but persistent Caucasian English graduate student named Mark. Jade has to figure out how to both please her family, who would not approve of her dating a Caucasian, and be true to herself. Her older brother is already out of the picture for that very reason. Thus, the facade of the perfect Chinese daughter soon begins to slip.

Cast

Sandra Oh …. Jade Li

Stephen Chang …. Dad Li, Stephen M.D. Chang)

Alannah Ong….Mom Li

Frances You … Pearl Li

Johnny Mah …. Andrew Chau

Callum Keith Rennie…Mark

Claudette Carracedo …. Lisa Chan

Greg Chen …. Uncle Bing

Mimi Mok …. Mrs. Mar

Lesley Ewen …. Carmen the Casting Director

Donald Fong …. Ah Hong

Nathan Fong …. Dr. Ming Chu/Bartender

Dennis Foon …. Director