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Wednesday
May 01 2019

Tribeca: Hong Chau in "Driveways"and "American Woman"

Murtada Elfadlreporting from the Tribeca Film Festival

Almost 18 months after the release,we are starting to see the results of Hong Chau's breakout role inDownsizing.At the Tribeca Film Festival this year,Chau is top-billed in two movies Semi Chellas'American Womanand Andrew Ahn'sDriveways.The two give this adept performer a chance to showcase her talent and prove she's ready for leading lady status.

Despite the top billing Chau is not the lead inDriveways.She plays Kathy,mother to shy 8 year old Cody (newcomer Lucas Jaye) whose unlikely friendship with the curmudgeonly widower next door Del (Brian Dennehy) is the primary narrative of the film.Del becomes their neighbor when they travel to a new town to clean and sell Kathy's late sister's house.Their stay is longer than they planned and Del becomes an integral part of their lives...

The first scene with Cody and Del,as they size each other up and slowly tell each other things they don't usually,is sweet and full of heart and relaxes the audience in for the unfolding story.

Sensitively written by screenwriters Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen,who've previous done theater work and written for TV shows, Drivewaystugs at hearts in the best possible way.Quietly and introspectively it builds its narrative one well-observed moment after the other.Andrew Ahn's delicate direction and smooth handling of these recognizable moments makes it all go down easy and earns the audience's adoration and sometimes even tears.The actors work in tandem delicately crafting their characters with effortless chemistry.

InAmerican WomanChau is front and center playing radical revolutionary Jenny Shimada,a fictionalized version of Wendy Yoshimura,an associate of the Symbionese Liberation Army who was with Patty Hearst when she was apprehended.Written and directed byMad Men's Semi Chellas,the film is about the last few months before that arrest.Shimida is ensconced in upstate New York with three fugitives,volatile Juan (John Gallagher Jr),his girlfriend Violet (Lola Kirke) and the Hearst stand-in here called Pauline (Sarah Gadon).In imaging the minutiae of life in  those few months the film leaves it to the audience to determine whether Pauline has really embraced her captors' ideology or was just trying to survive.Jenny is the audience surrogate and we observe the proceedings through her eyes.Yet she's also a fully formed character and Chau imbues her with an intriguing serenity that allows us to watch her think.

In trying to imagine what happens the film errs on the side on minimalism,there are no big explosions or action sequences.It's a character study of what goes through the minds of these people as they try to survive and weigh their options.That is a double edge sword though,as sometimes we wanted a deeper dive into this story.No matterAmerican Womanis still a strong showcase for both Chau as performer and Chellas as a writer / director.

American Woman and Driveways both screen tonight at Tribeca,and Driveways screens again on 5/4.

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Reader Comments (6)

Excited to watch this.Hong Chau was amazing in Downsizing in a role that should have been anything but.

May 1,2019 | Unregistered Commenterbeyaccount

About time Hollywood has a whole lot of options of great Asian actresses.

May 2,2019 | Unregistered CommenterLol

Excited for these films!Hong Chau was not only my MVP inDownsizingbut she was also quietly captivating and eerie in the last scenes of the Prime seriesHomecoming.Her image image in the last scene...wow!

May 2,2019 | Unregistered CommenterOwl

American woman is top class for sure.His work should be recognized.

May 3,2019 | Unregistered CommenterGomax

The fact that she came out victorious and was beyond terrific in a cringe-worthy character from a such mediocre movie should guarantee her at least 3 leads.She was also beyond great in such a short amount of time in Coming Home.She does wonders with so very little (like most actors of color).

May 3,2019 | Unregistered CommenterMe34

*Homecoming,LMFAO

May 3,2019 | Unregistered CommenterMe34

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