Lucky Grandma

May 27, 2020

It's a lighthearted almost mob movie in NYC's Chinatown--full of surprises.

Lucky Grandma

Grade: B+

Director: Sasie Sealy

Screenplay: Sealy, Angela Cheng

Cast: Tsai Chin (The Joy Luck Club), Hsiao-Yuan Ha

Runtime: 1h 27

Rating: NR

By: John DeSando

Sometime you just can’t put China away and hope it will forget how powerful a force it is on earth. Lucky Grandma is set in NYC’s Chinatown while Polanski’s Chinatown ends on the opposite coast, unifying so to speak. A family’s concern about the welfare of Grandma (Tsai Chin) after Grandpa’s death is exacerbated by her finding a load of mobster money after her visit to a Casino. The gangsters want it back, and she’s her smoking, feisty little self not willingly to give anything to anyone.

Some stereotypes crop up like the recalcitrant grandma, the feckless mobsters, and the way too deferential family. Best of all is her very big bodyguard, Big Pong (whom you would expect is loveable, and he is.) While the tight little drama allows major players to face down the mob, mostly the family itself comes up with ways to keep things moving in the case of the immoveable grand mom. If you feel you may have met some of the eccentrics before, you have, in the memorable characters out of The Coen Brothers, whom freshman director Sasie Sealy acknowledges as a big influence.

Although China cannot downplay the effects of its virus activity, we are aware that like Corona, the virus has no firm idea from whence it came or where it will end.

Even the music! Andrew Orkin’s jazz score is a unifier that would fit right in anywhere. While this Chinatown promises a melancholy return to good practices and loving families, we know better.

For a strong small film to enjoy, those who have had a wisecracking grandma can remember once more an audience global and powerful.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at