I had my first sneak peak of Flower Drum Song nearly 3 years ago during my Asian American class. Two years later, I bought the movie but kept it with the rest of my unwatched DVDs. I would watch Nacny Kwan’s “I Enjoy Being A Girl” over 10 times, but I finally watched the movie’s entirety with a few friends last night, indulging in every minute of this delightful musical.
It’s a great film with an all-Asian cast set against the backdrop of San Francisco Chinatown in the 1950s. It was unheard of at the time since most movies had Asians in an unflattering matter, but legend broadway creators Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein successfully pulled it off as Flower Drum Song focuses on a Chinese girl’s journey to America to fulfill an arranged marriage while trapped in a few love triangles. I loved the fact that the setting is in San Francisco with a distinct period piece of the 1950s. Sure, it may look outdated, but that’s it’s allure…it mixes the traditional Chinese culture with the American ways. Traditional Asian cultures are much more family-oriented with a sense of honor which the movie respects while also satirizing American culture. One example comes to mind as a woman tells the elder that the Americans have the right to pursuit liberty and happiness. He brushes off as his right to keep the parents happy.
Flower Drum Song may be an excellent analysis on culture and society, the movie’s main attractions are it’s songs, providing the best. Again, I wanted to see Nancy Kwan sing “I Enjoy Being A Girl” because it’s a dreamy sequence with an upbeat girlish melody with Kwan as the model of perfection. I also liked the eclectic “Chop Suey” as the dancers showcased every dance from Cha-Cha to Swing while the jazzy “Grant Avenue” was a delightful treat that gave reverence to San Francisco. Unfortunately, some songs that fell flat were the dream sequences of “Sunday, Sweet Sunday,” “Look, Look Away,” and “Don’t Marry Me.”
Some people may sneer at the movie for it’s unflattering one-sided, stereotypical portrayals of Asian American life, but it’s true success lies within the cast that gave outstanding three-dimensional performances. They are true roles models for the Asian-American community at a time when we didn‘t have that people to look up to. And the songs make you oh-so giddy.
My Rating: A