It’s tough being siblings sometimes, particularly when one is preferred over the other. Director Justin Chon has decided to tackle family issues and terminal illness in his new film, Ms. Purple.
Kasie (Tiffany Chu) is an escort at a karaoke club in K-Town, LA. On the side she occasionally sleeps with a wealthy patron in exchange for money. Oh, and she’s absolutely miserable about it. So why does she keep doing this to herself? Well, turns out her dad is comatose and she needs every penny to keep him alive. He’s terminal but her work is keeping him going. The live-in nurse is helping, but when the woman bails because she just can’t take the stress of the job anymore Kasie is forced to turn to her estranged brother Carey (Teddy Lee).
Diving into the LA living scene, a melting pot of cultures and lifestyles, requires a lot of the audience that might not have lived there. I can’t talk about how accurate the film portrays that life (though a South Korean woman at a Quinceanera seems pretty on-point) but I can talk about what it feels like to watch someone take care of a terminally ill family member. It took my grandfather ten years to die, with my tiny little grandmother taking care of him the whole way. Frustration, pain, and even resentment build up around the situation and can destroy families. We aren’t told what happened to Kasie’s dad, but I assume it had to do with alcohol abuse after his wife left him. I also assume the alcohol abuse was the reason he got into a physical altercation with Carey, driving the boy away.
I went into this thinking it would be a struggle, but instead I found a triumph. This won’t pull tears from me, won’t elicit any devastating ties, but it’s something that was so well-executed that I couldn’t tear myself away from it. It’s something I want to show my peers and face a second time.
I do need to touch on the score (of course I do). Roger Suen has crafted something moving, heartfelt, painful, and multifaceted here. Mixing classical sounds with guitar music and electro-pop to mold a disjointed but sweet score that works on every level isn’t easy, but it’s magnificent when pulled off right.
I’m being nit picky on that point because other than that the film is wonderful. It’s beautiful, heartfelt, funny in places, and left me wondering how my own brother would help me take care of my parents should they need it. Anything that could give me a glimmer of hope on that front has something special going for it. I can’t wait for the rest of you to see this one.