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Shanghai Kiss (review)

Don’t be fooled by the marketing of this one: Heroes hottie Hayden Panettiere — who shot this before she rocketed to fame on the cult hit TV show — is all over the DVD cover, posed like she’s bouncing through a standard inane romantic comedy. But nothing could be further from the truth of this smart, shrewd coming-of-age drama. Smart aspect No. 1: It’s not Panettiere’s 16-year-old high-schooler who needs to do some growing up but her friend Liam Liu, a 28-year-old gadabout who’s struggling as a would-be actor, and also as a young man caught between two cultures. In Los Angeles he’s can’t get past being seen as Chinese, but in Shanghai — where he travels when a grandmother he never met bequeaths him her house — he’s singled out as American. Smart aspect No. 2: The romance here is primarily one of Liam discovering himself, and finding that he might actually like who he turns out to be. Chinese-American screenwriter David Ren, a first-time filmmaker who codirected with Emmy winner Kern Konwiser, is clearly working through some of his own issues here, but seldom has “write what you know” resulted in so wise and melancholy a movie, and one entirely free of self-indulgence, self-pity, or cutesy self-deprecation. Oh, and Ken Leung (Inside Man) won a Special Jury Prize for Acting at the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival for his performance as Liam, and Panettiere won Best Actress at the Newport Beach Film Festival, and both notices are well-deserved, too. Extras include a making-of featurette, cast and crew interviews, audio commentary with the filmmakers, deleted scenes, and more. [buy at Amazon]

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MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

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