SIFF 2019: Ms Purple

When his directorial debut is named for a racial slur (Gook) and his acting credits are highlighted by the Korean Breakfast Club (Seoul Searching, on Netflix and amazing), I had no idea what to expect from Justin Chon’s new film Ms Purple. Chon’s story of an escort caring for his comatose father and her reconnection with her estranged brother for his to watch the father he hates, it is clear few filmmakers understand the love-hate relationship of siblings than he does. Mixing the unending childish behavior—the bickering, the roughhousing—with the emotional vulnerability a family craves (though so much repression knit in), Ms Purple examines a woman mining for resolution while her known world dissolves around her.

Tiffany Chu’s presentation of Kasie spans so much of a difficult situation: caretaker, escort at the douchiest of karaoke bars, abandoned by her family, trying to fit in at a rich Asian wedding when she is technically the whore in the room.  Chu’s reservation at a wedding rehearsal, clutching her champagne with sippy-cup-style intensity to ignore her blowhard boyfriend (sugar daddy). But when she unleashes, using one of his gifts to her benefit post breakup that it leads her into a significantly worse path.  The dutiful daughter became the sacrificial child when all other options were exhausted. Teddy Lee as brother Carey handles his daddy issues with unrestrained intensity; whether dragging his ward to an arcade, putting him in the sun, consolation for being this guilt trip reunion, Carey lugs around disdain for his father even when non-responsive.

The loose knots of Justin Chon’s narrative tie into a hastened knot, but isn’t that life?  Life is all those colliding aspects of any catalyst for change, and this film pushes Kasie into areas she feared to choose and found adversity through which she survived.  Justin Chon mixed disorder, operatic notes, but ultimately a story of healing into the stellar Ms Purple.

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