Review: HAPPY CLEANERS Is Ready For Pickup

FIRST IMPRESSION

Rough around the edges, but pleasant, Happy Cleaners offers an interesting and timely perspective on the immigrant experience.
Writing
Directing
Acting
Technical Merit

Happy Cleaners, co-written and directed by Julian Kim and Peter S. Lee, is one of the most earnest identity crisis films to come out in quite a while. Filled to the brim with both heart and humor, this is an indie touring the festival circuit on which you will surely want to keep your eye.

The movie follows a family of Korean-American immigrants who are struggling to stay afloat because of their failing dry cleaning business and the external pressure they face from friends and neighbors. Although the story does get a bit melodramatic at times, it also allows for some very interesting scenes of conflict within the family.

The thing that makes this film so special, though, is that it addresses themes that are not frequently addressed in movies. You don’t often see films that are geared towards Asian-American immigrant audiences, and it is refreshing to see a movie that presents their experiences in a sincere, if sometimes over-the-top way.

Perhaps the most interesting parts of the film are those in which the main characters, Kevin and Hyunny, as second-generation Americans, as they try to navigate their lives in America while still staying true to their familial roots in Korean culture. Granted, this struggle of trying to find one’s place in an unusual world has been well-documented before in movies, but rarely is a film able to relate this to the immigrant experience so effectively without feeling forced or cheesy.

The movie also explores the idea of pride in a very interesting way. The main conflict in the parents’ storyline comes from the father’s pride, which is tied to the society from which he came. He has what is certainly the most interesting and dynamic arc of any character in the film. His story, of coming to terms with the fact that the American Dream may not be so dream-like, is very impactful and relevant.

happy cleaners store

On an emotional level, the movie manages to be very resonant even if you may not connect with it personally or culturally. Although the film will likely cater most to Korean-American audiences for obvious reasons, the story is well-written and effective enough that it will be compelling for a majority of audiences. Perhaps most impressive is that the movie doesn’t pull on the heartstrings in an artificial way, instead eliciting sympathy with more subtle methods.

Surprisingly, one of the best parts of this film is its soundtrack. Typically, in an independent movie of this nature, the soundtrack doesn’t play a huge role in the film unless if it is themed around music. This movie, having no reliance on music in the story, uses music in a very interesting way to build the tone and pacing. With a less fitting accompaniment, the melodramatic elements easily could have become overwhelming.

The only area in which the film needed some additional work is the acting. The ensemble has great chemistry together, and all of the actors show charm and potential individually, but the delivery just isn’t there. Some of these issues could have been fixed with a solution as simple as shooting just a few more takes, allowing the delivery to come across more naturally.

Happy Cleaners is a sweet and surprising little indie. If this movie ends up playing at a festival near you, definitely take the time to check it out, as its touching story and unique perspective are what we could and should be seeing more in independent cinema.

Happy Cleaners was the Closing Night Film of the 2019 Asian-American International Film Festival.

TRENDING THIS WEEK

The BEST TikTok Compilation of The Boys Season 1

Lazer beam baby...enough said. » Watch The Boys now exclusively with your Prime membership: http://bit.ly/PrimeVideoTheBoys » SUBSCRIBE: http://bit.ly/PrimeVideoSubscribe About The Boys: The Boys is an irreverent take on what happens when superheroes, who are as popular as celebrities, as influential as politicians and as revered as Gods, abuse their superpowers rather than use them for…

The New York Times Presents | Season 1 Ep. 4: Hurricane of Fire Preview | FX

Perhaps a fitting start to 2020, Australia rang in the New Year with much of the country engulfed in flames. A few people decided to confront the blaze. Watch them stand face to face with one of the most ferocious infernos in history. Subscribe now for more The New York Times Presents clips: http://bit.ly/SubscribeFX The…

Fear the Walking Dead Season 6 Teaser: Just Live

Will the group be able to heed Morgan's words while living under Virginia's rule? Fear the Walking Dead returns Sunday, October 11 at 9/8c. Watch more from Fear The Walking Dead: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nd6kKYPfZE&list=PLP63B9XPsQt1rmPkG6kn5sNfVRr_T4Gnv Subscribe to The Walking Dead on YouTube: https://goo.gl/Tu5rSx #FTWD #FearTheWalkingDead #AMC FEAR THE WALKING DEAD: Like Fear the Walking Dead on Facebook :…

Niko Gutiérrez-Kovner | The Latinx List • All Accents Welcome

Niko Gutiérrez-Kovner sits down with his parents for a conversation about Latin Heritage Month and representation in TV and film. ABOUT THE LATINX LIST The Black List has teamed with Hulu for the 2020 Latinx List, which focuses one-hour and half-hour original pilots written by at least one Latinx writer and featuring a Latinx or…

We lied to you about Away | Netflix

Can you spot the lie? Inspired by the new series Away, starring Hilary Swank, these 21 facts (and one lie) will surprise even the most dedicated Space fans! Watch Away, Only on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/title/80223762 SUBSCRIBE: http://bit.ly/29qBUt7 About Netflix: Netflix is the world's leading streaming entertainment service with 193 million paid memberships in over 190 countries…

Fargo | Installment 4: Click Click Bang Teaser | FX

Listen to the sounds of war. The all-new Fargo premieres September 27th on FX. Next day FX on Hulu. Subscribe now for more Fargo clips: http://bit.ly/SubscribeFX The fourth installment of Fargo is set in 1950 Kansas City, where two crime syndicates fighting for a piece of the American dream have struck an uneasy peace. Chris…

Meeting of the Doctors | Doctor Who | HBO Max

Moderated by Terri Schwartz of IGN, HBO Max, in partnership with BBC America, presents the first-ever, historic meeting of The Doctors: Jodie Whittaker, Matt Smith, and David Tennant. Doctor Who S1-11 are available to stream exclusively on HBO Max. Future season/specials will premiere on BBC AMERICA. Subscribe: http://bit.ly/HBOMaxYouTube Be the first to know more: HBO…

The Undoing: ‘Thrill’ Emmy Tease | HBO

What exists in shadows will come to light. Question everything October 25 with The Undoing on HBO and HBO Max. #HBO #TheUndoing #NicoleKidman #HughGrant Subscribe to HBO on YouTube: https://goo.gl/wtFYd7 Grace and Jonathan Fraser (Kidman and Hugh Grant) are living the only lives they ever wanted for themselves. Overnight a chasm opens in their lives:…
Avatar
Sean Boelman
Sean is a film student, aspiring filmmaker, and life-long cinephile. For as long as he can remember, he has always loved film, but he credits the film Pan's Labyrinth as having started his love of film as art. Sean enjoys watching many types of films, although some personal favorite genres include dramatic comedies, romantic comedies, heist films, and art horror.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here