Cinema Review: Ms. Purple | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, November 23rd, 2020  

Ms. Purple

Studio: Oscilloscope
Directed by Justin Chon

Nov 09, 2020 Web Exclusive
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Justin Chon’s follow up to 2017’s Gook is another masterstroke from this emerging, talented storyteller. Ms. Purple builds on his previous work and confirms him as director that we really need to start paying more attention to.

Chon’s latest feature packs a series of heavy punches, and shows the depths of anguish people will push themselves to in order to protect the ones they love. Where Gook was shot in glorious monochrome, Ms. Purple shines vibrantly throughout, the almost kaleidoscopic visuals contrasting starkly with the matters at hand.

We follow Kasie (a stunning performance from Tiffany Chu), who works nights as a cocktail waitress in order to provide palliative care for her terminally ill father. Kasie’s bond to her father is unbreakable, and she pushes herself into increasingly dangerous situations in order to keep him at home and away from the hospice. By night she walks the dark edges of LA’s underworld where she is leered at and groped, eventually being drawn into the clutches of a rich businessman called Tony, who attempts to move her into his house, as essentially a bought-and-paid-for girlfriend.

Kasie is almost at breaking point when her brother Johnny agrees to return to the family home and help with the care of their father, giving Kasie some much needed support and reprieve from the treacherous life she is leading. Johnny’s return however opens old wounds that show a family fractured and torn apart by decades of sorrow and abandonment.

Overall, this film feels very much like a transatlantic Ken Loach feature, the sheer depravity that succumbs people who are living in poverty is never far from the surface, and at times this is a challenging watch. There is warmth to be found here, though, shown in fragments, shared looks and the slightest of smiles. The tougher elements are never over-glorified and Chon approaches the story with a subtle touch, conveying emotion in the smallest ways, to great effect.

As Kasie pulls herself away from danger, her initial fragility transforms into strength, and she is faced with a terrifying moral dilemma, one which will define the rest of her life going forward. Her love for her father is never swayed from the forefront of her mind, and she uses this as a guiding principle. By clinging onto the tiniest positives, she drags herself from darkness.

A superb character study that feels emboldening and important, and is deserving of our appraisal.

Author rating: 8/10

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