Take Out Girl, directed by Hisonni Johnson and written by Johnson and Hedy Wong, follows Tera Wong (Hedy Wong), a 20-year-old Chinese woman and her financial struggles. Working at her mother’s struggling restaurant, Terra begins delivering food in the “Low Bottoms,” an infamous Los Angeles project. There she gets the opportunity of a life-time from the local drug Kingpin to move his “product” inside her takeout food boxes. But her dream of financial freedom all comes crashing down when a dark secret is revealed.
Tera is doing her best to keep herself and her family afloat. Her mother, Wavy Wong (Lynna Yee) has serious back problems that are making work painful and near impossible. Meanwhile, Tera’s brother, Saren Wong (Lorin Alond Ly) is caught up with violence plaguing the neighborhood. While delivering food, Tera meets Lalo (Ski Carr), local drug kingpin after he ordered food from the restaurant. Realizing her family needs more money and Lalo tipped incredibly well, she goes back and offers to deliver his product in her take out boxes.
Despite not labeling Lalo as a Narco, I’m always hesitant when a Latino actor steps into a role as a “drug lord” given how it’s been historically handled. Lalo dresses like a Mexican cowboy and speaks with an accent and is played by a Latino. However, Carr’s Lalo is a compelling and, at times, sympathetic villain. His character is complex.
Tera is also incredibly complex and a unique lead. She is, unfortunately, the type of female character who rarely gets to be seen on screen or in media in general. Wong beautifully portrays her complexities. At school and to the world around her she has a tough exterior that is almost impossible to crack. However, with her mother, Tera is patient, kind, and incredibly worried. Tera’s relationship with her mother is one of the strongest parts of the film. Their relationship is heartwarming and it is clear why Tera wants better for her. Similarly, Wavy is just as complex and in addition to being a loving, hard-working mother, she is hiding her own secrets. Everyone has a past and eventually, it catches up with you.
Tera, and every woman in the film, feels real and I have to think a lot of that is because of the talent behind the camera. In addition to Wong’s credit as a writer, the film boasts that 50 percent of the crew are women. There are no sexy body shots of Tera, she is never objectified by the camera and the moments where she is catcalled aren’t glorified. Instead, you are made to feel anxious and uncomfortable like any woman in that situation.
Outside of Wong’s performance, one of the biggest highlights of the film is its soundtrack. A mix of melancholy ballads, and hip-hop/RB bops. The music helps set the tone of the movie creating a realistic look at LA. This soundtrack is comprised of entirely Asian American hip hop artists including Raja Kumari and $tupid Young.
Similarly, Take Out Girl paints a real picture of the struggles many immigrant families face in LA and around the country. When Tera’s mother gets burnt while cooking, she refuses to go to the hospital, fearing the medical bills. They turn to home-made remedies to keep everyone functioning. Most people have an old-school remedy or cure-all a loved one used on them time and time again. Growing up in a Mexican and Cajun household, our go-to was always Vicks Vaporub and Dr. Tichenor’s antiseptic mouthwash which we used on every cut, bug bite, and anything else in between.
Take Out Girl is a diverse film that offers solid representation both in front and behind the camera. The film boasts that it is written and produced by Asian American women as well as Latino, White, and African American content creators. That diversity translates to a realistic and relatable story that doesn’t rely on harmful stereotypes. The only slight I have against the film is at times, the pacing feels slow but even then, that is a tiny nitpick that in no way distracts from how good this movie is.
Take Out Girl will have its world premiere at the Bay Area at Cinequest Film Festival 2020 and is available now on VOD.
Take Out Girl
Take Out Girl is a diverse film that offers solid representation both in front and behind the camera. That diversity translates to a realistic and relatable story. The only slight I have against the film is at times, the pacing feels slow but even then, that is a tiny nitpick that in no way distracts from how good this movie is.