Review: Golden Delicious

Directed by Jason Karman and written by Gorrman Lee, when basketball-obsessed Aleks moves across the street, Asian-Canadian teen Jake finds himself trying out for the basketball team to get his attention in this classic coming-of-age drama in the digital age. Starring: Cardi Wong, Chris Carson, Parmiss Sehat, Ryan Mah, Leeah Wong, Claudia Kai and Jesse Hyde.

The easiest way to describe Golden Delicious is if you’re a fan of 2000’s teen dramas, then you’ll really enjoy it because it plays to the beat of the same drum. That comes with some advantages but unfortunately they’re outweighed by the disadvantages. The key one being that while this story is set today, it feels like it should be taking place in the 2000’s, at the latest. It has the best of intentions to tell a wholesome story of self-discovery and sexuality but it hits an old-fashioned note. There is the nice addition of telling the story from the perspective of a young Asian kid, with all the typical pressures and expectations that come along with that. However, it’s simply not enough to set it apart and give it a fresh perspective.

It’s the double-edged sword of the progression of gay cinema, we need more stories with gay characters, and not just those discussing gay issues, but we’ve now reached a peak of coming out films which sets the bar higher. It’s not an easy challenge, so when Golden Delicious is set today but doesn’t feel like an accurate representation of the newest generation, it’s falling short. Especially when you’re adding in that it moves quite slowly and was very indulgent with its runtime, needing a sharper hand at the editing. The best example of that is the basketball scenes, which should be full of energy and intensity but they’re unfortunately not cut together well. Another obstacle is just how much its heart is on its sleeve, there’s no subtlety to its style, everything is out in the open. It’s sweet but it’s hindering itself from being able to build a deeper emotion or further layers.

There’s a similar problem when it comes to the characters, while the entire ensemble is doing absolutely solid work throughout, the characters are hitting unoriginal notes. They’re simply too formulaic, so as convincing as the cast all are, they can only take the story so far. The personalities needed a bigger vibrancy or individuality, there’s no quirk or spark to them. Interestingly, one of the most intriguing and compelling performances comes from Claudia Kai as Jake’s (Cardi Wong) sister Janet. Her performance brings a bigger, compassionate presence to the film, it’s only a shame more time wasn’t spent building that sibling bond. Wong and Carson have a great chemistry, it’s very naïve and natural, Parmiss Sehat brings plenty of optimism and Jesse Hyde gets points for how much he makes you want to punch his character in the face.

Golden Delicious has the sweetest and most wholesome intentions to tell a coming out story of struggle within an Asian family but it feels stuck in the past. It’s matching the tone or vibe of shows like the early days of One Tree Hill, and it’s simply not a good representation of the current generation. The story moves play by play as you expect, so while the direction and acting are solid, the writing, cinematography and editing are letting them down, moving too slowly and missing energy and personality. There’s huge potential to dive into an Asian-American story of coming out within a very traditional family but this one misses the mark.

Verdict: ✯✯✯ | 6/10

Reviewed as part of BFI Flare 2023

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