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Eat a Bowl of Tea

21 customer reviews

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(Jun 03, 2003)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Ben's wife wants some attention. Ben's boss wants some dedication. Ben's father wants some grandchildren. And Ben just wants a minute to sort it all out in Wayne Wang's gentle comedy, Eat a bowl of tea. In New York's Chinatown of the late 1940s, young Ben Loy (Russell Wong), fresh out of the service, has his whole life spread out before him - including a job, an apartment and a marriage arranged by his father (Victor Wong) to the beautiful Mei Oi (Cora Miao). But as eager as the couple is to see what America has to offer them, that's how eager the whole of Chinatown seems to see some first-generation U.S. offspring. And when Ben's celebrated young marriage threatens to crumble in the face of this pressure, it's up to him to separate his dreams from his father's, and to find a future for himself and his wife in their new adopted homeland. Directed by Wayne Wang (Maid in Manhattan, The Joy Luck Club), Eat a bowl of tea is a charming, warm-hearted film based on the classic underground nov

Director Wayne Wang is in his appealingly low-key groove with this wry comedy-drama, a precursor to his later success with The Joy Luck Club. It's set in the aftermath of World War II, when the restrictive U.S. immigration laws had finally been relaxed. WWII vet Russell Wong is a young Chinese-American hepcat, strong-armed by his dad (the wonderfully gnarled character actor Victor Wong) into an arranged marriage with a Chinese girl (Cora Miao). The trip to China, and the atmosphere of New York's Chinatown, are neatly mounted. The film's central joke, and metaphor, is the bridegroom's impotence after marriage; he's cowed by the expectations of his traditional culture, which don't necessarily match his own ideas. In its quiet way, Eat a Bowl of Tea examines the larger issues of ethnic identity while poking affectionate fun at its floundering characters--a distinctly modern attitude for a 1940s story. --Robert Horton

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Victor Wong, Cora Miao, Russell Wong
  • Directors: Wayne Wang
  • Producers: Tom Sternberg
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: June 3, 2003
  • Run Time: 103 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00008YLVC
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #59,671 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Eat a Bowl of Tea" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By darragh o'donoghue on February 25, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
Although it never deadens itself with too much period detail, you can almost touch the 1940s atmosphere in Wayne Wang's film, the dark rooms and grey streets occasionally filtered by cold sunlight. 'Eat A Bowl Of Tea' recreates a crucial moment in Chinese-American history - the relaxing of inequitable immigration laws that had prevented Chinamen bringing their women into the country, and the subsequent influx of young female life into the sterile world of old men - with little historical fanfare, and maximum attention to human experience. Wah Gay is a successful club owner who hasn't seen the wife he left behind in 20 years, and who despairs at ever seeing his frivolous son, who served in the US Army during the war (the mass of Chinese who had done so causing the laws to be repealed) ever settling down and continuing his line. He sends him back home to marry a friend's daughter, bring her back, take a good job and start a family. All these pressures, unfortunately, make the young man impotent, and his frustrated wife is forced to take a lover.
As the film starts, with its wisecracking Greek chorus, its warm 40s look and its 40s jazz standards on the soundtrack, you might almost be watching a Chinese Nora Ephron film. The struggles of individuals against the community begins to take a starker turn as the film progresses, and characters become alienated from each other. The film is full of images and situations in which Chinese and American cultures confront one another, sometimes to harmonious effect, but just as often clashing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By D. Pawl VINE VOICE on August 12, 2007
Format: DVD
The title of this film alludes to a remedy prescribed to one of the characters. If I was to be more specific and explain what the remedy is for I would ruin the plot, so, I won't do that! I will tell you, since I take writing these capsule reviews very seriously that I don't believe that this film is worthy of your time. Based on a novel by Luis Chu, EAT A BOWL OF TEA examines 1940s United States and the Chinese-American experience in this country. Due to a stringent immigration act, all Chinese men coming abroad the USA to seek work were forced to leave their wives behind. Chinese women were not allowed to accompany their husbands, when they came seeking jobs to support their families back home. Thus, the older Chinese men who had settled in this country twenty years before, were aging alone, without the possiblity of bringing first born sons into the world, to continue their familial lineage. In spite of miscygenation laws, Chinese and Chinese-American men would sometimes keep company with Caucasian women, as is depicted in the example of the young main character, Ben Loy (Russell Wong). Ben is sent home to China, by his father, to meet and marry a nice Chinese girl. When he finds her (Cora Miao) and they get married, Loy becomes impotent (one factor possibly being stress--especially, the stress of producing an heir--something that is mandatory in the eyes of Ben's father, as well as their community). This leads to unfortunate circumstances and choices based on frustration and embarrassment.

Why didn't this film work for me? Well, for starters, themes of family obligation, extramarital affairs, and bicultural identity were handled in a very clumsy way and the poor acting certainly didn't help.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Steven Mason on October 9, 2005
Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
This film deserves a special place in the Chinese-American pantheon. It's not about the "clash" between old and new, East and West, a theme that too many movies and books have beaten to death. It's about family, love, relationships, and history, without any cliches. The story touches on subjects very rarely dealt with, such as impotence, brilliantly so. The love story is romantic and realistic. Everyone puts in wonderfully authentic performances. This is my favorite Chinese-American film. If you like it, you may want to read the book, which is even better.
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19 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Jeffery Mingo on October 18, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
This film is important and needed for three reasons. One, you get to see supa-fine Russell Wong. Two, rarely do you see a movie with so many Asian-American men. Three, this movie illustrates that Asians did live in the US before 1965's liberalization of immigration laws. Still, in this movie, when Russell is a gigolo for a white female client, he's sexually active. However, when he has a cute Chinese wife, he's impotent. This seems like some disturbing white-worshipping to me. It's kinda anti-Asian woman too. Haven't we seen and heard enough of historical stereotypes of Asian men as not true masculines?! Then, the end is too fast and illogical. This movie had so much potential that it did not meet.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By arbekeal on June 11, 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I am very disappointed. I purchased this DVD assuming that it is the same version as the one I saw many years ago on TV, and that original movie highly reflect what my grandfather told me what life was like for him back then. Some of scenes were changed. The biggest change is the scenes when Russell Wong was arrested by the police. The original version I saw didn't have the Russell's father cutting off the ear of the adulterer and the police come to arrest Russell for the crime. In the original movie, the problem is handled by the Wang Family Association, where a couple of tough looking guys spoke quietly to the adulterer and ask him to leave town and never come back. The Chinese Americans back then normally don't report their problems to the police, because the police don't care. That goes with the rest of the American society. Another example is the banks. Back then, Chinese Americans don't go to the bank to borrow money. They go to their Family Association or the Chinese American Association instead.

There are other scenes that have been changed, all to down play the injustice and inequality that the white Americans assert to the non-white minority, and in this movie the Chinese Americans. After watching this DVD, I throwed it away.
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