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The Grace Lee Project (Unrated)

Release Date: December 14th, 2005 (NYC-Film Forum)
Directed by Grace Lee.

BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about the meaning behind “Grace Lee”, a very common name among women all across the world.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Sometimes, the most interesting topics are the ones you take for granted. How often do you stop to think about where your name really comes from, besides from your parents? The Grace Lee Project traces the meaning of “Grace Lee” in a provocative and original way. Director Grace Lee interviews other Grace Lees across the country in an unscientific approach to her study. Throughout her quest, she meets different Grace Lees, such as a news reporter, young students, and a civil rights activist. In a somewhat humorous scene, Lee asks people how they imagine the average Asian girl such as Grace Lee—everyone pretty much says that she’s quiet and friendly. It’s fun when Lee tries to find a Grace Lee who doesn’t conform to the stereotype, i.e. a punk. She comes close when she finds one who set her school on fire, but it turns out that she only got suspended and did very little damage. The most interesting Grace Lee is the activist (also called “Grace X”) from Detroit who shows plenty of charisma and youthful energy even at the age of 88. Fortunately, Lee’s unscientific approach makes for a surprisingly light and breezy documentary that never becomes boring.

SPIRITUAL VALUE:.Lee learns that, despite how different the Grace Lees seem, they are more similar to one another than you would think. It’s inspiring to watch the activist “Grace X” make changes within her community to better the future of young children. However, the unscientific nature of the study makes for a weak conclusion that fails to synthesize all of the observations—or, in this case, the interviews. It would have been a little more informative if Grace Lee interviewed sociologists who would definitely have plenty to contribute. If you were to compare this film to an essay, it has a good thesis with interesting observations to support or refute it, but, ultimately, the conclusions are weak because the sources Lee uses are simply not good enough.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: A weak conclusion with not enough synthesis.


THE BOTTOM LINE: Lively, breezy, and surprisingly funny. However, Lee’s unscientific approach doesn’t go far enough to be truly insightful.

RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater (2nd Run)

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