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The Asian ApertureAn American in China
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, July 8, 2012    Share

Aimless, twentysomething, David Braddock, has just finished studying at Stanford University and is idling his time away sitting at home. His parents want him to find a job, and more importantly, a purpose in life, and when he doesn’t find employment in a week, Mom lays down the law. She offers him a chance to go to China to help the family business. David is not quite sure where to go or what to do in life. He wants to stay in LA close to his girlfriend who is cheating on him. His only plan is to promote volleyball tournaments but his life will have a bigger calling.

David finally accepts and takes off for China. When he first arrives in Shanghai, walking through a crowded airport, he has no idea what is going on. The problem here is that following a long flight to China, David appears energetic and not as bewildered and tired as most everyone would be. This is very unrealistic. He meets a young girl who speaks English and together they get into a car and travel to a nice expensive hotel. Again, most travelers are not going to go for high income accommodations, especially since David is going to China to help out the family business, which would imply that finances are tight and every dollar should be accounted for. When David tries to offer money to the car driver and the driver refuses, that is a realistic look and a blunder an American visitor would be likely to commit.

David has an appointment with a Mr. Lee and they have dinner at a nice plush restaurant. This is a good look at language frustrations but here Director Ron Berrett drops the ball. Naturally Chinese food is China is going to be different from Sweet and Sour Pork and other Western influenced flavors. Berrett should have shown David experiencing Chinese cooking at this point. Instead he waits until much later in the movie to show David at a restaurant with people buying live frogs and eating strange foods.

David agrees to do business with Mr. Lee and he travels to a small rural Chinese village. Here his hotel room is small and cramped without all the comforts of home the way it generally is for travelers. When David wants to buy a Coke, people cut in line in front of him, he can barely speak enough Chinese to buy what he wants and this is realistic. When David struggles to understand Mr. Lee, inside the factory, he is helped by Mei, who is put to work to be a translator. For some reason, David develops a big crush on Mei. Mr. Lee takes him to a restaurant, where David struggles to use chopsticks. Everytime I watch a movie about an American traveling in Asia who can’t use chopsticks, I cringe. Lots of American have been to various Asian restaurants and many can use chopsticks. It is such an overused cliché for Westerners in the Far East.

Throughout, An American in China, there are real cultural differences that do happen. When David has too much to drink he is walked home by Mei and he kisses her. The next day she is angry and will barely speak to him. They both have to overcome these differences, in order, to work together. The more David tries to romance Mei, the stronger she resists, yet she keeps the door open for their relationship. Too many movies show the strong, young Westerner going to Asia and having an Asian girl falling madding in love. This is another overused cliché that thankfully An American in China doesn’t get wrong. It takes time to build any relationship in Asia and a romantic one is no exception.

The rest of An American in China shows David trying to win Mei’s heart and helping out his family’s struggling business back in LA at the same time. Most moviegoers know how this is going to end so the ending is predictable and descends into syrupy sentimentality.
The best parts of the movie are the shots of Shanghai, the rural village, Beijing and the Great Wall. The cinematography is excellent and it is a shame that the plot is the weakest part.

Still, the movie does have a good message, when David decides to build a factory in China and that is the US and China will be working close together in the future and it is important to learn about each other for any hope of success.

I am a sucker for the fish out of water story about Americans traveling to Asia. Most of these movies rarely get it right.

2.5 out of 5 for a Light Hearted Comedy that occasionally misses the mark.

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2012 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2012 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.

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