Recounting the immigrant experience from a Chinese woman's point of view, "Miss Wonton" registers the sense of disillusionment for many upon discovering that the American dream is an unattainable myth. Singapore-born, NYU-trained debuting writer-director Meng Ong is only moderately successful in attempting to stitch together an ambitious dramatic canvas combining old and new worlds, ghosts from the past and personal hurdles in the present, traditional roles with modern notions of emancipation and empowerment, indicating a limited life outside the festival circuit.

Recounting the immigrant experience from a Chinese woman’s point of view, “Miss Wonton” registers the sense of disillusionment for many upon discovering that the American dream is an unattainable myth. Singapore-born, NYU-trained debuting writer-director Meng Ong is only moderately successful in attempting to stitch together an ambitious dramatic canvas combining old and new worlds, ghosts from the past and personal hurdles in the present, traditional roles with modern notions of emancipation and empowerment, indicating a limited life outside the festival circuit.

Recent New York immigrant Ah Na (Amy Ting) gets work and accommodation in a Chinese restaurant among a motley assortment of fellow cultural transplants. Exploring beyond this insulated environment, she stumbles into Grand Central Station, where immigrant women rendezvous and fraternize with American men. But Ah Na’s encounters with a smooth surburbanite (James Burns) confirm her outsider status, sparking the realization that only she can shape her future. Cluttered, unfocused script attempts too much — particularly in returning to China to uptap Ah Na’s painful past — preventing the central drama from gaining real momentum despite its intelligent aims. Cast is capable and production values are sharp.

Miss Wonton

Production

A Dreamchamber Films production. (International sales: Media Space, New York.) Produced by Dave Johnson. Co-producer, Hisami Kuroiwa. Directed, written, edited by Meng Ong.

Crew

Camera (Technicolor), Tsuyoshi Kimoto; music, Evan Evans; production designer, Charlotte Burke; art director, Cecile Thalman; costume designer, Bryan Wang; line producer, Eve Applebaum. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (American Spectrum), Jan. 23, 2001. Mandarin/English dialogue. Running time: 87 MIN.

With

Amy Ting, Ben Wang, James Burns, Chyna Ng, Sakura Ting, Scott Chan, Shen Han Ying.
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