Alice Wu's engaging low-budget film, Saving Face, makes the Big Apple and its characters shine probably in part to having Will Smith on board as a producer.
Wu, once a Seattle Microsoft computer programmer, nicely details the milieu of a closeted, hardworking New York Hospital surgeon, Wil, warmly acted by Michelle Krusiec, known for her work on "ER". She displays a nice sense of humor that doesn't mask her ability to make people care for her.
Wil often visits Flushing to see her mother who tries to match her up with the best eligible bachelors. But, Wil's very organized life is disrupted by her widowed Ma, played by the comely Joan Chen, veteran actress and also the director of Autumn in New York.
Ma comes to Wil's Park Slope flat having been thrown out of her parents house by her father (LI Zhiyu) because of getting pregnant in her relatively early middle age and concealing the father's identity.
This happens around the time Wil is becoming close with Vivian, tenderly endowed by Lynn Chen (no relation to Joan). Vivian is a luminous dancer with the New York City Ballet and had a little inside pull since her father is Wil's employer.
Wu sensitively touches on the themes felt in The Joy Luck Club concerning being true to one's heart and adhering to tradition. Where it goes may seem obvious to most, but the feelings of the primary characters comes off with much truth and a good amount of wit. There are some good scenes between Krusiec and the two Chens as Ma is prodded into marriage so she can finally leave Queens while a secret sapphic bond may be threatened in the process.
The conclusion of this Chinese-American romantic roundelay is set up like The Wedding Date, but has a better emotional payoff thanks to the performances and how Wu embraces them as flawed, yet endearing people.