Read at The Atlantic

— by Shirley Li: A man is crying—no, convulsing with sobs—on-screen inside a theater in downtown Los Angeles during a pivotal scene in the film The Farewell. He’s at a wedding banquet and he’s supposed to be toasting the newlyweds, but he’s shifted his attention to his mother instead—and, as if at a funeral, he’s weeping. His mother watches, baffled at the way he’s doubled over in grief, not joy. It’s intense. It’s quiet.

And then: Someone sitting close to the screen laughs. The cackle cuts sharply through the silence, and it catches the film’s writer-director, Lulu Wang—there because it’s the L.A. premiere of her breakout hit—off guard.

“The last time I saw [The Farewell] with an audience was at Sundance, and I don’t think there was as much laughter during [that] speech, when he breaks down,” Wang told me the next day, late in June. “It usually gets really quiet and tense in that moment, and then the laughter comes once the camera cuts away from him … But last night, it was almost like—” She raises her voice and mimics the laughter. “Ah ha ha ha! Like, laughing at him?” …

July 14, 2019