Zach’s Zany Movie Reviews: TIGERTAIL (Netflix)

So doing the math on all of this hardcore Netflix ‘original’ (or fuck, any streaming service original, really) movie watching because of all the theaters (fuck you COVID-19) being closed and still needing to write reviews because it is my passion to do so, the ratio, from my count, is around 10 to 2. 10 really shitty Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+ or Apple TV+ original features I have to slog my way through just to find 2 really, really decent ones. Yeesh. Now granted, watching something like Netflix’s The Main Event…I’m just asking to be kicked in my ever-lovin’ movie adoring nuts, but come on, when are these executives going to watch the shit that they buy and after having suffered through that suckage are they going start to make tougher decisions on what they are going to put on their platform? Are we really having to suffer more and more of their cheap choices and only get one good diamond in the rough out of the bunch every so often? Yep. And it’s never going to change and I’ve just now accepted that fact. There are some people that watch the cheap shit out and still eat it up, Lord knows why…dumb fucks. I don’t even know why I am complaining in this review, considering that I am going to give TIGERTAIL, a Netflix ‘original’ film that came out about two weeks ago from one of the creators (and Emmy winner) of Netflix’s great series Master Of None (Alan Yang; I want another season God damn it, no one gives a shit about Aziz Ansari’s heavy quote on quote “sexual harassment” misconduct anymore, if you can even call it that) a solid recommendation. I’m just tired of the shit I have to maneuver through the cold dark smelly abyss just to get to something half way decent such as this film.

The great Alan Yang, who is also a producer, writer and director on such great television shows as The Good Place, Parks and Recreation, gives us his first feature film here, and it is more sad, somber, and depressing than I would’ve liked, but he is clearly a FANTASTIC storyteller. All of his previous experience just elevates his (obviously very personal) film out of the mediocre crap that we are getting on streaming platforms right now into something that might even be a must watch when coming around to the Oscars next year…if they aren’t cancelled that is. Tigertail is about an older gentleman named Pin-Jui who, after coming home from his mothers funeral in Taiwan, reminisces about his life before he immigrated to America and the early years after he arrived there. After certain events unfold you realize that he’s viewed his entire life as one big regret which has made him estranged from his ex-wife and children. Is it too late to make amends with everyone and tie up loose ends? Obviously to answer those questions, you’ll have to watch the movie. There are a fair amount of subtitles in this movie, but kind of like the recent The Farewell, English is used in most of the present day America scenes. But forget the subtitles, if that is what is stopping you from watching films, you may need to reconsider your priorities. The subtitles are easy to read and don’t distract from the overall experience of the film.

The film is also a tight and easy 91 minutes long. No filler. In fact, if I had any complaints about this movie is that it is a little uneven in its storytelling and should’ve been longer to flesh out the narrative a bit more. I would’ve gladly spend another 30 minutes seeing more Pin-Jui’s life in America with his young children than just one or two flashbacks. I have a feeling there are many scenes on the cutting room floor, as John Cho was supposed to be in this movie but said his scenes got cut, and we only see the boy as a young child once, which was kind of strange as the movie really only shows a possible solution for making amends with his daughter and not his son. But if he’s estranged from both and doesn’t have a good relationship with him either, shouldn’t the story have involved both of them? That’s the unevenness I’m talking about that bothered me a little. I’m wondering if it was cut up by producers and if there is a director’s cut out there somewhere. I would be more than happy to view this film again if it was a bit longer. The acting here is great. I’ve known Tzi Ma ever since he played the kidnapped daughter’s father in Rush Hour and his time as one of Jack Bauer’s greatest villain on 24. Here he plays it straight, strict, selfish, stubborn yet sorrowful, a fantastic contrast from his likable father character he played in the aforementioned The Farewell.

Be forewarned, while there is light at the end of the tunnel, the movie is kind of depressing. Living your full life in regret for that many years is gotta be something that weighs heavily on a person. It starts right when he leaves for America, abandoning a girl who loves him to marry someone that he doesn’t love, only for a ticket to America, where he can hopefully bring his mother along in due time once he makes enough money, to get her out of the awful factory conditions that she currently works in. Phew, that’s a mouthful. Not only do these decisions weight on the character, they begin to weight on the viewer as you begin to ask yourself, what would you have done differently. And a film that makes you think long after the credits have rolled, is alright in my book. The film is shot very well and the dialogue is clean and precise, I have a good feeling that writer/director Alan Yang is going to move on to great things if he is given the chance to be involved in future feature films. He has a solid eye for the camera as the cinematography is gorgeous, especially when we see scenes out in the field of Taiwan, or his childhood home in/on Tigertail. You could tell this was very personal, as Alan Yang is basically the male child in this movie, telling his family’s tale. The only thing I don’t understand was why didn’t he incorporate his self/character in the film a bit more. It would’ve been a more well rounded film and potentially even masterful. I’ll take this over any ‘The Main Event’ like films on Netflix any day of the week, but am I being an asshole for asking for more? That’s another question you’ll have to ask yourself if you read my review and decide to watch this tale.

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