Dr. Donna Copeland’s
CHARLES CHU RYAN O’NAN MELANIE LYNSKEY
ANNIE POTTS ALAN CUMMING CAITLIN STASEY
Chu & Blossom
I feel like if you searched for “zany independent film” Chu & Blossom should represent the results. It’s the type of witty writing, great acting and rare collaboration spawned out of truly original material that make films like this such a great find. Written and directed by its two lead actors, Charles Chu and Ryan O’Nan have crafted a type of coming-of-age story for young adults. It’s a film that tackles the misunderstanding of two males and their complications in trying to be friends. Chu & Blossom features quirky characters out the attic with indie actors like Potts, Cumming and Lynskey really making them come alive.
Joon Chu (Chu) has always dreamed of visiting America, and now with a scholarship opportunity he lands in a small town with big expectations. His host family is the first sign of the strangeness yet to come as they mispronounce his name and look at him, wondering if the money they are being paid is worth having him in their home. Joon isn’t the best at making friends, and his extremely tall stature and broken English do him no favors. He meets Cherry Swade (Stasey) in class and Blossom (O’Nan) outside. Both are outsiders in their own way and together they teach Joon the importance of dreaming out loud.
There is a lot of things going on in this little movie. One of the most beautiful and captivating subplots is the photography class Joon takes, instructed by Lynskey (Win Win, Ever After). Some of the film's most memorable and articulate moments come out of Joon’s final exam, a live action photography study. I won’t spoil it, but it’s worth watching the entire film for. The writing here really understands how to maximize the use of all the different elements and scenarios in the film. Messages of love, friendship, rediscovering ones-self, enduring the loss of a loved one, and on and on will give nearly every viewer something to root for.
I always like when new filmmakers write characters for familiar faces, not only to bring in money for the project that can only be attained with star power, but it always gives these films more weight when you see talent like we see here, and playing very obscure roles I might add. The music component fits extremely well with the mood of the film; nearly every scene is accentuated by the score. If the film has any drawbacks it’s in the editing department. Some of the takes seem a little long and the running time, while under two hours, has a few scenes that could use some trimming.
Final Thought – A funny metaphorical journey of self-discovery.
By: Dustin Chase
What a wonderful, fanciful, quirky, artistic film! Chu and Blossom is especially welcome after seeing all the Oscar heavies during the last two months. It’s one of those rare films that wrestle with some weighty issues, but they’re right alongside the light and airy—even riotously funny—scenes.
One of the themes in this film is the clash of cultures, and we see this right at the beginning when Joon Chu (Charles Chu) arrives from Korea in some small American community to pursue his scientific studies. He knows some English, but his thick accent makes it difficult for Americans to understand. But that’s not the only problem; the way he is received in some instances is as if he were from Mars. One woman just stares at him for a full minute, then turns and walks away. Joon is tall for an Asian, and despite Houston’s basketball pro, Yao Ming, a big deal is made of his height everywhere he goes. But Joon is endearing, and quietly wins over anyone who bothers to get to know him.
The film is also a coming-of-age story about Joon, who is initially shy, afraid to take risks, extremely polite, and conscientious. But wouldn’t you know—he somehow ends up being friends with the town freak, Butch Blossom (Ryan O’Nan), who is a madcap artist—by his own definition—and fearless. He is angry, and easily curses out anyone who annoys him. But he also has some empathy for this strange Asian, a fellow outcase, and makes an effort to draw Joon into his world. Joon is not yet sure of what he wants to be, even though he is on a science track; he is fascinated with photography, has an interest in everything around him, and gets drawn into Butch’s (which sounds like ‘Bitch’ when he pronounces the name) performance art. Immediately Joon is attracted to a pretty, pink-haired classmate, Cherry Swade (Caitlin Stasey), and the three become good buddies. All three are desperately seeking an identity, and God forbid that they “end up like everyone else.”
The story is filled with colorful characters, such as Butch’s flamboyant uncle (Alan Cumming) who wears the most entertaining outfits; Joon’s host, Mrs. Fefterg (Mercedes Ruehl), and her rude, outlandish son Tim (Grant Shaud); and the brutish relative or friend of Cherry, Fred (Richard Kind). These misfits are on the scene much of the time, so play a significant role in entertainment value.
But conversations between Joon and Butch often have a serious, wistful tone when they confide in each other about their families, and their hopes, dreams and fears. They are a study in contrasts, and it’s gratifying to watch them form a deep friendship. Actually, friendship is another theme of this fine movie, and that’s the note it ends on, a most fitting conclusion.
Other strong points on the technical and artistic elements include the cinematography (Jez Thierry), and especially the music (Michael Patterson), which becomes a character itself.
Chu and Blossom is a case of cultures clashing; and it works!
Grade: A By: Donna R. Copeland