marywebgirl (marywebgirl) wrote in ohnotheydidnt,
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marywebgirl
ohnotheydidnt

ONTD history lesson: Better Luck Tomorrow

Gather around children of ONTD, and let me tell you about a film called Better Luck Tomorrow. It's directed by Justin Lin, premiered at Sundance in 2002, and was released widely in April 2003. Roger Ebert stood up at the Sundance screening and shouted down audience members who were critical of it, and it helped launch Lin's and John Cho's careers. It was the first appearance of Han (played by Sung Kang) and was retconned to be the character's origin story for the Fast and Furious franchise. GQ did a decent oral history article about it in 2018, so this post is basically a TL;DR of that.




The basic plot of the film is that a group of Asian-American kids in Orange County go from SAT prep and Academic Decathlon to crime and violence. It addresses the trope of the model minority, as well as the more classic teenage movie themes of being an outsider and trying to figure out your identity.

  • Lin was repeatedly told that the main character should be white when he was trying to get the film financed. He eventually received partial backing from MC Hammer.

  • The cast slept in sleeping bags in Lin's parents' house while they were filming.

  • Woody Allen wanted Parry Shen to fly to New York to read for a role, which he declined to do in favor of filming the movie.

  • During one of the Sundance screenings, an audience member tried to shame Lin for his portrayal of Asian kids, and Roger Ebert defended him. Ebert later gave the movie four stars and called it "brilliantly made."



  • The film was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, was a selection at the Toronto Film Festival, and eventually made $3.8 million against a $250,000 budget.

    If you've never seen it, Better Luck Tomorrow is streaming now on Starz, or you can rent it for $2.99 through Amazon.

    Source 1 | Source 2 | Source 3 | Source 4
  • Tags: asian celebrities, film - drama, john cho, ontd original
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