At the 2019 Dallas International Film Festival Ms. Purple took home the Grand Jury Prize for the Narrative Competition. Writer/Director Justin Chon’s work is quite familiar to the festival and with only three features under his belt he has established himself as a emotional force in the film world. This dramatic sibling tale touches on many emotions and sticks with you long after watching. Here is my full review for Oscilloscope’s MS. PURPLE.
From award-winning filmmaker Justin Chon (GOOK, 2017), MS. PURPLE is a poignant drama about sister and brother, Kasie (Tiffany Chu) and Carey (Teddy Lee), who were raised and are now seemingly stuck in Koreatown. Abandoned by their mother and brought up by their father, the siblings continue to struggle with profound emotional wounds from the difficulty of the parental dynamic. Now, with their father on his death bed, the estranged Carey comes home to help Kasie care for him. Old ties are renewed and a relationship restored in this vibrant, deeply affecting portrait of Asian American siblinghood in Los Angeles.
Filmmaker Justin Chon doesn’t shy away from a challenge. His outstanding 2nd film, GOOK, tackled racism surrounded amongst a specific historical event (Riots after the Rodney King verdict), but the choice to make the film in black and white was so bold. It might have been a cost saving maneuver but in the end the stylistic change grounded and expanded the film in a unique way. Teaming again with his DP Ante Cheng the duo tackled the POV of a female lead in Ms. Purple. This bold choice allowed for such a rich tapestry to unravel amongst all the heartbreaking surroundings. Tiffany Chu’s performance as Kasie is pivotal on all levels to the likability of Ms. Purple. I can easily say she is captivating from her first shot to the haunting final silhouetted shot at the end, she is our Ms. Purple. In Justin’s Filmmaker statement he openly discussed how the female perspective was pivotal in his choice to make this film.
Throughout the process, I realized how misinformed I was about the female perspective and I was able to achieve a much better understanding of how women are treated in our community. Filmmaking to me is about exploring the journey of humanity and this film helped me search for that truth through our protagonist lead, Kasie
The film’s small cast is highlighted by a solid group of dynamic performances especially Teddy Lee as Kasie’s younger brother Carey, James Kang as their ill-father who shines in his limited flashback scenes and Ronnie Kim as the sleazy club owner Tony. What really makes Ms. Purple stand out is the ever present musical backing. Whether the original score by Roger Suen or the music composition the haunting emotions are never left at bay. The pacing and the poignant elements are fully maximized by the musical choices. The film doesn’t have to allow for a moment of reflection to settle the fast pace. Instead the movie constantly tests your ability to remain transfixed on Kasie’s tough world or the long lost sibling connection she has with Carey. The subtle nature of why Carey is the abandoned or escaped child is nicely handled and exposed at the right speed.
Overall Ms. Purple is a film that stamps the rarely seen heart of a filmmaker wanting to test people’s notions of drama. Chon isn’t making a cookie-cutter story that wraps itself warmly in a predicable tale. Rather we witness something honest and real that highlights the small choices indie filmmakers want to make to be not just noticeable but award-winning. Gook blew me away and so has Ms. Purple. I’m a full fledged fan of Chon and his team. I hope you’ll take the dive into this world and witness truth on screen. One of the year’s best films, Ms. Purple is in limited expanding release as of Sept 6th. For us North Texans you can see it today!
Selig Rating: A
Release: September 27, 2019 at Angelika Dallas.
MPAA Rating: R
Directed by: Justin Chon
Written by: Justin Chon and Chris Dinh
Run Time: 1hr 27min
Cast: Tiffany Chu, Teddy Lee Alfredo Tavares, James Kang, Ronnie Kim
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.