2015 Asian Pacific American Film Festival
Set in the Southern California suburb of Arcadia, Love Arcadia (2015) is a romantic comedy starring Anthony Ma as Jake Chen and Michelle Huang as Joanna Lee. The film also takes on larger issues as the tea shop owned by Jake’s family faces redevelopment by Joanna’s father, a Taiwanese real estate tycoon. Jake must decide between going off to college with his friends or trying to save the family business.
Director/producer Lawrence Gan and screenwriter Theresa Chiu use the classic theme of the little guy battling adversity and put an Asian American spin on it. Ma is a young Tom Hank-like “nice guy” while Huang could be America’s next sweetheart as Julia Roberts and Meg Ryan were. Although once a Hollywood staple, romantic comedies are now considered risky by the studios. Fortunately, the form has survived in the indie world, with a twist.
Jake isn’t alone in his struggles. His two best friends have his back. Louie (Arvin Lee) aspires to Broadway stardom despite his chubbiness. Samantha (Lana McKissack) is a funny girl and Jake’s love doctor. Jake lives in a multiethnic universe where Asian identity is rarely, if ever, openly discussed. However, the demands of their success-driven immigrant families, add to the pressure the main characters face. At times, this generational conflict becomes the source for laughs. The relationship problems of Jake and Johanna are partly caused by this familial obligation that, of course, isn’t exclusively Asian American. The story has universal resonance. Although it’s an uphill climb for distribution, mainstream audiences would embrace this movie and its attractive leads.