The Scallion is our new satire feature series.
I finally got around to watching Jade Lantern (2016) last night and it was every bit as good as The New York Times said it was. Set in Manhattan, Jade Chu (Yunjin Kim) is a single mother struggling to connect with her parents and 10-year-old son. Jade is a talented artist working for an ad agency. She has barely been on speaking terms with her father ever since dropping out of medical school. Her father (Tzi Ma) runs the family restaurant in Chinatown and never spent any time with his children while they were growing up. He drinks and smokes heavily and plays mahjong with his buddies. All the while Jade’s mother does all of the work and gets yelled at by Jade’s father when she brings him a beer that is not cold. Jade is mad at her mother for not standing up to her misogynistic father, but mother and daughter still connect through food and spend a lot of time making dumplings together in the kitchen.
On the other front, Jade’s son (Jonathan Ke Quan), is being bullied at school. It’s a diverse school, so there are no racial implications to his being bullied. One day though, when Jade missed picking her son up from school, a new teacher, Matt Lantern (Matt Damon) takes Jade’s son to a protest and a baseball game. The two form a bond and Mr. Lantern ultimately convinces Jade’s son to stand up for himself. He also starts a passionate relationship with Jade that is on the verge of crumbling because Matt will bring Jade and her son to see his family, but Jade won’t invite him to her parents’ restaurant. Jade cries and says that her parents would never understand her dating a white man.
Encouraged by Jade’s son, Matt shows up to Chinatown anyway. There he encounters the Chinatown triad trying to extort her father for protection money for the restaurant. As tempers flare and the triad leader reaches for his gun, Matt comes out of the souvenir shop next door with a bow and arrow and shoots all the gangsters squarely on the forehead.
After the police leave, they sit down to have dinner together for the first time. Everyone is having a good time and making fun of Jade that Matt knows how to use chopsticks better than she does. While laughing, Jade’s father chokes on a chicken bone and Matt performs Heimlich on him, saving his life. After dinner Matt goes to help Jade with the dishes. Only this time, her father no longer says, “It’s not a man’s place in the kitchen,” but rather thoughtfully nods and then pours his wife a cup of tea.