This is the second of three reviews form the recent Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. Also see:
Created by a female auteur, Joyce Wong’s quirky Wexford Plaza is far easier to understand, although stylistically, like Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon and more recently the Showtime series The Affair, the same or similar events are told from the different points of view of characters taking part in the unfolding stories. In terms of content, Wexford has a vibe similar to Kevin Smith’s 1994 low budge cult classic Clerks, about menial workers in low status jobs living dead end lives in ’burby New Jersey, in that Wexford’s titular mall located in suburban Toronto is where key characters “work” as slacker security guards.
One of the protagonists is Betty, an overweight, lonely Caucasian woman full of yearning who turns 20 during the course of the movie. As the randy Betty, Reid Asselstine steals the show and her disarming performance is the best thing about this often charming indie.
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Betty is more or less sexually harassed by her male security “colleagues” but she has the hots for Danny (Darrel Gamotin), who sidesteps her sexting and sexual advances because, unbeknownst to Betty, he is romantically involved with Celine (Ellie Posadas). Danny starts out as a bartender up to his neck in debt, and he’s one of those people who can’t face up to and cope with reality. He’s perpetually in over his head, and when I saw this flick at its L.A. premiere thought that given Betty’s hankering for him Wexford might have veered in another direction.
Be that as it may, Danny and Celine’s characters, like the thespians who depict them, are of Filipino ancestry. Yet this has little if any bearing on this Canadian film, although one might think having characters whose family origins are in the tropics but now live in the Great White North might have been commented upon. Perhaps Canadians are less ethnic conscious and sensitive than their racially troubled neighbors to the south? Likewise, although Wexford’s writer/ director is of Asian ethnicity, this seems to have no bearing on the story and its depiction whatsoever. Of course, artists must be free to pursue their individual visions, regardless of ethnic origins, and shouldn’t be hemmed in my stereotypes and typecasting.
Although the fact that Wong is female - like many of the other directors of this year’s LAAPFF’s movies - does make a difference. One could argue in the best sense of the cliché that Wexford Plaza bears a woman’s touch. Never heavy-handed, this affecting, truthful, simple (but not simplistic) film shows that Asian-Canadian filmmaker Joyce Wong has a promising big screen future, and I for one look forward to seeing her follow-ups.