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Falling For Grace Movie Review: Cinderella In Chinatown

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Part updated urban fairy tale, part unconventional romantic comedy, Falling For Grace is a gentle and bittersweet story that pays whimsical homage to its twin genre roots, but never allows those vintage origins to get in the way of the wit, warmth and wisdom of its narrative. Written, directed and produced by women, the originally titled East Broadway also challenges in imaginative and engaging ways, how stories get told these days, whether within or outside of Hollywood.

Directed, produced and starring Broadway actress Fay Ann Lee (Miss Saigon) and co-written with Karen Rousso, Falling For Grace follows the complicated aspirations and ensuing misfortunes of Grace Tang (Fay Ann Lee). Born Yip-Han to immigrant parents and raised in poverty in New York City's Chinatown, the Americanized makeover Grace survives a lonely childhood as a social outcast, and driven by fierce ambition, rises through the professional ranks to become a successful corporate investment banker. But despite the financial rewards of her economic achievements, Grace yearns for the position in life that still eludes her, social acceptance in high society and cultural assimilation.

At the same time, she conceals her shame and embarrassment as the daughter of uneducated workingclass parents who speak no English, and a mother who drudges away along with other exploited immigrant women and underage girls, in one of the numerous illegal Chinatown garment sweatshops that refuse to pay their workers even minimum wage. So when Grace is mistaken for a prominent and wealthy clothing designer, Shanghai Tang, by Caucasian socialites at an upscale gathering, she takes advantage of this opportune case of mistaken identity, as well as the white tendency to stereotypically lump all Asians together as a group or distinctive individuals.

But when Andrew (Gale Harold), a handsome, idealistic young lawyer at the party takes a romantic interest in Grace over his current shallow and unscrupulous heiress girlfriend, she sees no alternative but to continue her own accidental identity theft, so as not to lose him. And she reluctantly perpetuates the deception, including the basis of his attraction to her in the first place - his mistaken belief that Grace is dedicated to helping the poor in Chinatown, but a designated family that is secretly her own parents.

Wonderfully anchored by symbolic socioeconomic elements borrowed from Cinderella and its Chinese folkloric version, along with sassy comic relief courtesy of Margaret Cho as a take no prisoners colleague with strong opinions, Falling For Grace weaves those components into the story as it touches on immigrant dreams and disappointments, worker exploitation, and class conflicts both within society and families. And yet always allowing the by turns humorous and richly rewarding story, even if on the predictable side, to sweetly unfold according to its own spontaneous dramatic rhythms.

Falling For Grace will be screened beginning March 19th at New York City's Big Cinemas, the former ImaginAsian Theater, a national chain dedicated to showcasing otherwise rarely seen Asian and Asian American film in the United States. More information about Big Cinemas is online at: Bigcinemas.com, and further information about the film is at: Fallingforgrace.com.

Off Hollywood Pictures
Rated PG-13
3 stars

Prairie Miller is a multimedia journalist online, in print and on radio. Contact her through NewsBlaze.

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