The Other Gay Movie You Should Take Your Straight Friends to See This Weekend

So, it’s the day after Thanksgiving and your staring at your family as they try to decide what to do. You suggest going to see Milk and they agree. Awesome! After the show, they look at you and go, “I didn’t know this ever happened! I want to know more about this homosexuality thing!”

What do you do then?

Queerty’s suggestion? Run, don’t walk to the nearest video store and pick up a copy of The Wedding Banquet.

It’s the perfect companion piece to Milk. Where Harvey Milk’s story is written on the public stage, the characters in The Wedding Banquet, a gay couple named Wai-Tung Gao (Winston Chao) and Simon (Mitchell Lichtenstein) live private lives. Both feature happy, successful gay people fighting for acceptance, but while Harvey’s fighting at City Hall, Wai-Tung and Simon are winning the battle around the kitchen table.

Directed by a pre-Brokeback Ang Lee, the film’s first half is a comedy, with Wai-Tung and Simon living together in adorable homo bliss, while Wai-Tung fends off his parents advances to get married by making impossible demands of the dating service they’ve hired for him. To appease his parents, he decides to have a marriage of convenience with one of his tenants, an artist named Wei-Wei.

And then the parents show up.

Simon finds himself having to shut himself back in the closet for the benefit of his boyfriend’s parents. A massive charade of deceit is performed for the benefit of Wai-Tung’s father, who recently had a stroke and who Wai-Tung fears could not handle the news that his son is gay. The whole thing builds to a head when at the wedding banquet, a drunken Wai-Tung hooks up with Wei-Wei. Simon finds out and the two look headed for Splitsville, especially after Wei-Wei reveals she’s pregnant.

What happens next is probably my favorite moment in the history of gay cinema. The elder Mr. Gao is no fool and realizes that Simon is truly the love of his son’s life and gives him the traditional red envelope of money the father usually gives the bride. It’s a simple gesture, that by virtue of its traditional and cultural significance, manages to mean more than any speech ever could.

The movie doesn’t make things simple however and when Wei-Tung’s mother finds out, she’s a lot less accepting. In the end, a sort of family emerges between Simon, Wei-Tung and Wei-Wei. It is, like all family’s imperfect, but it’s held together by love.

I’ve shown it to a ton of friends over the years and it’s always been a hit. I especially like showing it to straight friends, because it gives them a glimpse of what it’s like to be gay– to be constantly deciding whether to admit you’re gay to strangers, having to wonder if your family will still love you, being forced to forge familial relationships in a society that doesn’t support yours. If you want to know what it’s like to be a gay person living in America, this is your film.

Trailer below:

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  • Alan down in Florida

    Great movie. I second the recommendation. Had a crush on Mitchell Lichtenstein for weeks. Especially recommended for rice queens and the men who love them.

  • The Gay Numbers

    The movie they should see for sheer talent is My Beautiful Laundrette with Daniel Day Lewis.

  • James

    “The elder Mr. Gao is no fool and realizes that Simon is truly the love of his son’s life and gives him the traditional red envelope of money the father gives the bride.”

    I teared up at this scene and by the end of the film I was a blubbering fool.

  • Darth Paul

    @James: TOTALLY. Reminded me of my (ex-military) dad who showed tons more support and acceptance than my jackal mother ever did/will.

    Great movie choice!

  • Smartypants

    Ang Lee was doing gay-themes and doing them well long before Brokeback Mountain. The Wedding Banquet is one of my favorite movies. After long ago wearing out the VHS, I was thrilled to find it this past Sunday on dvd at my local Hollywood Video for $5! I got two copies.

  • mjesf

    You got the plot wrong.

    First, Wei-Tung’s father had the stroke AFTER he and Wei Wei had the banquet and after Simon and Wei-Tung had the argument upon learning Wei Wei was pregnant.

    Second, the red envelope of money was a birthday present from Wei-Tung’s father to Simon, who completely forgot about his birthday during all the turmoil.

    That said, it was a great movie.

  • bobito

    EXCELLENT recommendation! My partner said the dialog of the scene in which Wei-Tung comes out to his mother made him wonder if somebody had secretly taped the conversation with his parents when he came out to them. A remarkably funny and poignant film.

  • Mark Snyder

    My bf and I love this movie!!!

  • GranDiva

    @Alan down in Florida: I was with you until you said
    Especially recommended for rice queens and the men who love them.

    Such exploitive language! I’ve been off calling my exes dinge queens for at least a decade.

  • jeremito

    This has ALWAYS been one of my favorite movies! Thanks for mentioning it. I actually saw this movie in the theater as a teenager with my parents! I was kind of squirming at the time, but it actually made it a lot easier to come out to them a few years later ;) Question: How come Ang Lee has cornered the market on the best gay movies ever made? Between this and Brokeback, it’s a little uncanny (and ironic) that a straight man has tapped into the gay psyche and is able to tell subtle, beautifully rendered stories that really get to the essence of the gay experience in America. Bizzare.

  • afrolito

    I’ve always hated this contrived piece of crap film. Wei-Tung hooking up with Wei Wei was completely out of character, and slightly homophobic. I remember Roger Ebert making a similar criticism at the time. Thank god Ang Lee didn’t actually write Brokeback Mountain.

    Rice queen? I can’t imagine any asian person feeling flattered to be objectified in that way. Ugh

  • ousslander

    like afrolito said the one part is rather sketchy but overall very good movie.Enjoyed it much more than broke back.

  • Scooter

    A great underrated movie!

  • Cam

    Afrolito, you obviously have no friends that are Chinese. Trust me, the only son in a high ranking family in Taiwan would do whatever they could to please the family,

    Thank you Queerty for recommending this, I’ve always thought it was so strange that this movie, which was nominated for an Oscar is not known by so many gays. Well done!

  • mark

    Wedding Banquet is a terrific film, but the encore to MILK this year should be Latter Days

    or you could show your straight friends the ACTUAL footage of Harvey Milk’s life, in THE LIFE AND TIMES OF HARVEY MILK

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