The Soong Sisters

I approached this film with some trepidation as I didn't really know what to expect. Generally, there are very few film bios that I have liked - if they stray too far from the truth it annoys me, but if they follow the truth too closely they are likely to be quite dull. But with Michelle Yeoh and Maggie Cheung in it, I felt I was duty bound to watch it.

Now since I actually know next to nothing about the lives of the Soong Sisters I have no idea if this movie came anywhere close to following the truth or not. I have read about the cuts the director was forced to make to keep the Chinese government happy  - primarily concerning Madame Chang. For the most part the Communists are barely in the movie and are generally treated sympathetically. Chang Kai Shek gets treated much worse than they do. Sun Yat Sen gets the most respect.

At any rate, for the most part I quite enjoyed this movie - it had some wonderful, powerful scenes - though at other times it dragged  (its nearly 2 ½ hours long). And I kept waiting for Anita Mui (Wonder Woman) to show up and help Maggie and Michelle but she never does! In some ways it reminded me of those old Hollywood bios where they begin with a character dying as an old person and then flash back to their childhood and go from there.

For the most part the movie focuses on Maggie as Ching-Ling wife of Sun Yat Sen. She has a great part and is wonderful in it. Some beautiful close-ups of her show she is only getting more beautiful as she gets older. Then later the film shifts to Madame Chang played by Vivian Wu. Vivian plays her almost as a giggly schoolgirl though that is certainly not the image that I ever had of her - more like tough as nails. Poor Michelle really gets the shaft in this movie as her character just marries some rich schmuck (now if she had married Mao!) and she is almost treated as wallpaper in this film.

The one main criticism I have is that the movie just sort of peters out (even after 2 ½ hours !) - maybe they were running low on money - and the whole Chinese Civil War and retreat to Taiwan and all that happens afterwards is covered in about 2 minutes. There were other parts that could have gotten treated with a little more time such as Maggie’s flight of 40 days to find her husband. That could have been a movie by itself and it gets 3 minutes of screen time, but I guess when you cover so much material - 3 lives and many years - it is impossible to do it justice.

Anyway, I would certainly recommend this - not with total enthusiasm, but as something that is different and interesting and for a near perfect performance from Maggie.

To see some pictures of the real life Soong sisters - click here