I've Got the Brains.... Let's Make Lots of Money
Wrt. Justin Lin, Ernesto Foronda
Dir. Justin Lin
Str. Parry Shen, Jason J. Tobin, Sung Kang, Roger Fan
Luck Tomorrow is a thoughtful coming of age story centered
on a message of social protest. Don't misunderstand here,
the social protest and the comming-of-age are two distinct,
unrelated things. Protest wise there is writer/director
Justin Lin's complaint that Asian Americans are a completely
marginalized piece of Americana. On-screen they are reserved
to play the sidekicks, geeky bad guys, and ninja gurus of
the cinematic world. Off-screen they are ignored completely.
As he e.g'd at a recent press conference, when he walked
into MTV studios (the music video-come-teenage marketing
megalopolis is distributing Better Luck Tomorrow) he was
shown a pie chart of the different racial demographics and
it was explained how every single yes-man in the company
felt that this movie would sell to their market perfectly.
Curiously missing from the pie chart, he noticed, were the
Asian Americans. The African Americans had a nice big chunk,
the Latinos, and the Caucasians, but no Asians. When he
mentioned this to his hosts, it was explained that the buying
pattern of Asian American kids is exactly the same as that
of Caucasian kids, so the one was just merged into the other.
There are more people of Asian decent in the world than
any other ethnicity (that might not be true, but is sounds
pretty good, doesn't it), they simply deserve their slice,
Lin is saying (is that a pun, you ask? probably). And he's
probably right. As Sundance last year, Better Luck Tomorrow
got high marks for its bravery and originality. No one expected
a movie like this to get distributed, since no one thought
any one would touch it. Thank god MTV (creators of reality
television and Joe's Apartment) will eat up anything with
moderately young people and violence somehow intertwined.
But that's the social protest half of the film. The film
itself isn't quite as brave as the message behind its existence.
Much of the movie feels like an abstract Revenge of the
Nerds. Imagine, if you will, that the nerds grew up and
wanted to make a movie. Given the current state of American
film it would obviously need to have drugs, crime, violence
and money liberally peppered throughout. But instead of
the protagonists being all edgy or bad-ass, they're totally
brilliant, and they use their brains to fuel their lives
of crime -- almost exactly like that Petshop Boys song,
Opportunities-- except without the brawn... or the heavy
The nerds start small, of course, scheming Comp USA out
of literally tens of dollars, and then they start to branch
out and grow larger. Within what feels like a matter of
weeks our main brainiac, Ben (Shen), transforms from a good
little kid reciting SAT vocabulary to his fish and engaging
in several over-wrought study montages to a fiending coke
head with blood pouring out of his nose onto his nice clean
sheets. Why, you ask, do they do all this? Cause they are
bored and living in suburbia. What else are they gonna do?
And that really is the justification for the entire movie.
Along the way towards the violent anti-climax there are
tons of technical accidents and trips. Firstly the whole
premise of Better Luck Tomorrow (sans the Asian American
actors, and the fact that they're all honor students) is
exactly the same as hundreds of other movies and because
of that everything about it feels old and tired. The music
doesn't fit with the scenes most times; you have to wonder
if MTV didn't just throw some indie wannabees onto the soundtrack
to make it all seem hipper. The writing is atrocious and
pulls all of the other problems into clearly into the forefront.
While Lin's direction and the temperamental acting save
some of the scenes, for the most part everything just falls
Two Monkeys Chained To Typewriters
It's the writing that really kills the movie. Lin and Foronda
couple far too much drama and poignant symbolism with a
host of clichés and horrific, shoddy dialogue.
Four Calls For Botox
None of these "seventeen-year-olds" looks a day
under 22. Usually I can suspend my disbelief a little, but
the age thing kept bugging me through the whole movie. Maybe
if they were cuter... I don't know. Whatever it was I guarantee
that a healthy shot of Botox Cosmetic* would have fixed
this movie right up!
One Stupid Name
Better Luck Tomorrow? Sorry, but I still don't get it. Were
they going to call it Better Luck Next Time, but thought
that was too clichéd? And if so, what the hell do
they mean by that? From the look of it, 'today' wasn't all
that crappy for these kids, I mean sure, there's a dead
body in someone's back yard, but aside from that they're
smart and rich.
Two Hipsters Yearning For a More Diverse Future
The message is stronger than the movie, not hard since the
movie is pretty weak. There are some beautiful moments of
directorial achievement by Lin, and the acting hovers around
par. While it's true that you get a raw, truthful glimpse
into the ennui world of the Hollywood suburbs, you are forced
to wonder why you bothered looking in the first place.
*this review and its reviewer are brought to you by a
grant from the Botox Corporation