It’s the summer, and summertime means movie time. I’ve watched quite a few the past week, including the hilarious Four Lions and the two Harold and Kumar movies. Tonight, my roommates and I decided to switch things up with a more serious film called Better Luck Tomorrow.
Directed by Justin Lin (The Fast and the Furious franchise), this excellent indie film first made waves at Sundance in 2001 and was eventually released by MTV Films.
Better Luck Tomorrow is a crime-drama loosely based on the 1992 “Honor Roll Murder” at Sunny Hills High School in the suburbs of Fullerton, California. The news made headlines and shocked the community because a group of honor roll students, mostly high-achieving Asians, had violently murdered another high school student.
The movie does a great job providing the back story, which is definitely sensationalized but shows how such an act could have happened. We follow five Asian American high school friends who are finishing up their senior year in high school and are looking forward to college. Everything seems to be on track.
Except they start questioning the “cycle” that seemingly predestines all Asian Americans into the same mold of overachieving, perfect students. And they start to get themselves into crime.
One of the film’s characters, Stephanie, sums up the subsequent downward spiral: “You know how you make decisions that lead to other decisions, but you don’t remember why you made those decisions in the first place?”
These decisions bring money and infamy to the group, but lead to more crimes and trouble.
Better Luck Tomorrow is masterfully crafted and intense. It takes common stereotypes and turns them upside down. I think that’s what makes this film so compelling. By posing the question, “What if the good kids commit crimes?” this film shows that anyone, regardless of race, class, and achievements, has weaknesses and is capable of atrocity.
On a side note, props to the director for featuring a movie with an all-Asian cast and touching upon an unconventional subject matter. Justin Lin took a big risk in making this film, but the results speak for themselves and show that it’s possible for films to be successful and good without following the cookie-cutter Hollywood blockbuster movie format.
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