While MDMA does have an engaging story, it is also the type of film you wish could’ve dived more into certain characters and subjects.
|Screenplay By||Angie Wang|
|Good If You Like||Semi-Autobiographical Films
Young Women Behaving Badly
Bad Ass Asian Women
|Tommy||Scott Keiji Takeda|
|Michael (Angie’s Dad)||Ron Yuan|
|Young Angie||Shawn Crab|
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Taking place over a little more than a year, Angie goes from a girl from Newark, in 1984, to heading off to going to a rather expensive school in California. One in which her focus originally was chemistry but between parties and drug use, her grades slipped and then came a $9,780 bill from the school. This pushed the first generation Angie to using her knowledge to create MDMA to not just pay her tuition, but take care of people. Be it her friend Tommy, who gives her a taste of what it means to have a close-knit family, or this young girl Bree, whose life may not exactly mirror Angie’s, but definitely influences her future decisions.
However, with using the school’s science lab to make the drugs, as well as dealing with a dealer who doesn’t appreciate Angie’s Jersey attitude, things spiral out of control quickly. Leaving you to wonder, with this semi-autobiographical tale, how will Angie pull herself back together. Much less not disappoint a father who has already been through so much?
Question(s) Left Unanswered
- It’s noted Angie’s mother did reach out to her, but it isn’t said if she ever reconciled. I wonder if she did?
Collected Quote(s) or .Gifs
“Good people die, but we’re not bad people for surviving.”
On The Fence
There Are A Lot of Aspects of Angie’s Life You’ll Wish Had More Focus Than Others
MDMA feels very packed in. We address Angie’s relationship with her parents, which includes a mom who abandoned her at 6, and a dad who always seemed distant. Be it because he is an immigrant and is working his ass off to survive, or because the devastation of Angie’s mother leaving still weighs on him. Never mind her taking his son.
Following that, there is Angie being raped by two white boys and how that may or may not have played a role into her relationship with a jock named Alex. Then there is her abuse of alcohol and willingness to try drugs. On top of her becoming a big sister to this girl named Bree whose mother is a drug addict. Not to mention Angie’s roommate having mental and emotional issues, and that’s before we even get into her making drugs and her friendship with Tommy.
But, despite this film being an hour and a half, it feels like it barely covers any of these topics fully. Which for some things, you’ll be okay with, like Jeanine, Angie’s roommate, not being made into a huge deal. However, when it comes to Angie’s relationship to Tommy, which becomes a major focus towards the end, alongside some of Angie’s personal struggles and trauma, it leads you to feel the real Angie, who wrote and directed this film, just wanted to make sure the main points were hit. Everything else could be explained in interviews, a follow-up movie, a full-on book, if not lectures.
Which makes sense for Wang, for we’re within a period of time where diversity means more than different faces but also stories. And while Awkwafina has largely championed a different look and perspective of what Asian women can look like and act, the point of diversity isn’t about just having one different look and story. It is about seeing multiple avenues, whether positive, negative, or living within a grey area, and taking note of how their culture, played a role in that.
Though, even with all that said, I must admit I wish Angie’s relationships didn’t just trigger quick flashbacks but further dealt with how seeing Tommy and Jeannine’s family triggered both the good and bad of Angie’s life. Maybe even, with Tommy, hopes and dreams she had despite what has happened to her. The same goes for how Bree was handled and even Angie’s relationship with Alex maybe being her taking back control of her sexual agency after those two white boys stole it from her.
The Tommy Friendship Seemed Rushed
For the most part, Tommy just seems like the other Asian guy at Angie’s school who represents the idea she wasn’t the only one. However, suddenly, it seems Tommy and Angie have this close relationship. Angie doesn’t tell Alex anything about her past but this guy we have rarely seen the whole movie learns about Angie’s mom abandoning her and she is going over his house for a family meal. Which, no matter what your culture is, bringing a girl to a family meal is considered a big deal. Especially in your adult years. So the handling of Tommy, as a whole, seemed to be just to set up the beginning of the end of Angie’s time in California as a drug supplier.
Overall: Mixed (Divisive) Purchase Or Rent On Amazon
You have to give it to Annie Q, who in her build interview comes off nothing like Angie. For she does take this role by the horns and tames the wild child Angie was. However, there is this sort of, “I’ll tell what I can now and elaborate late” vibe when it comes to MDMA. Like, if Wang waited, she may not get to tell her story at all, especially by film, so she compromised where necessary and made sure all major talking points were hit.
But, in the process of that, instead of mountains for Q to conquer emotionally and physically, she just got a series of hills. Each one notable but not having the impact they should have because there is so much to cover but so little time. Hence the mixed label. While you do get the gist of how certain events, either inspired or factual, changed Wang’s life, and certainly made her not fit some model minority stereotype, it leaves you wanting more in the worse way. Pushing the idea this needs follow up to truly feel complete rather than a 90-minute sample platter.