A Korean-American woman wrestles with family and duty in Justin Chon's Ms. Purple trailer
In Los Angeles, among dreamy palm trees and towering buildings, there are a thousand little contained worlds, full of their own stories. Justin Chon’s Ms. Purple, which premieres its trailer exclusively for EW above, sets its particular L.A. story around estranged siblings in the city’s Koreatown neighborhood.
Kasie (Tiffany Chu) and Carey (Teddy Lee), whose relationship has long been strained, reunite to take care of their dying father (James Kang), whom Kasie refuses to put in hospice. Though she once had ambitions to become a pianist, Kasie is currently slogging through life as a hostess in a karaoke bar in order to afford her father’s treatment.
The film captures a snapshot of these characters’ lives in Koreatown, where gentrification and societal changes have pushed so many out of the neighborhood, and Chon says those who remain can become ghosts in their own homes.
A range of thematic and visual inspirations for the film, from the work of Ken Loach to Hirokazu Kore-eda, can be seen throughout Ms. Purple, Chon tells EW. Through its narrative and striking visuals, Ms. Purple asks viewers: If Kasie doesn’t let go of burdensome traditions that stifle her own desires, if she doesn’t expand outside of Koreatown, will she become a ghost?
“Purple is the color of mourning, mourning someone’s death in Korean culture. So that’s why I chose the color and named this film Ms. Purple, and her [hanbok] dress is also purple,” Chon says. “The dress is also the things we have to shed, that maybe not work for us in being from a different country. What do we leave behind from our old culture, and what do we take with us?”
Having screened Ms. Purple at Sundance and other festivals, Chon says non-Asian-American audiences have approached him to say the film’s themes around loss and family resonated with them.
The director, whose 2017 film Gook won the Next Audience Award at Sundance, says it’s important to show the experiences of Asian-Americans from a variety of economic backgrounds.
“I really love Crazy Rich Asians and what it’s done for our community, but at the same time, it is telling the story about the the .001%,” he says. “Whether it’s political or economical, it’s very important to me that we have some sort of counterprogramming to what’s in the mainstream, because it does truly bring empathy to our community, and brings an understanding and exposure to maybe what a lot of us have to deal with in our daily lives.”
Distributed by Oscilloscope Labs, Ms. Purple will open Friday, Sept. 6, in L.A. before expanding to New York City and additional markets Sept. 13. EW is also exclusively debuting the film’s poster, below.