Take Out Girl (2020) turned out to be a surprise hit as one of my new favorite 2020 indie movies. This hip-hop music backed melodrama is set around the neighborhoods of Los Angeles’ infamous housing projects. Director and co-writer Hisonni Mustafa Johnson and co-writer Hedy Wong put this story together in such a way that it reminded me of a Shakespearean tragedy, complete with a tragic hero, doomed romance, greed and fortune, and then adding a dash of family woes to a plot that thickens as it simmers.
To help her family stay afloat, Tera Wong (Hedy Wong) sells homework and test answers at school, as well as waitresses at her mom’s Chinese restaurant. With her hard-working mom in need of medical care, Tera quits school to put in more time at the restaurant. When she is unknowingly called to deliver an order to the lair of a drug dealer named Lalo (Ski Carr), Tera sees an opportunity to offer her unassuming identity as an Asian woman as a new method to make inconspicuous drug-runs. After Lalo agrees to her proposition and begins stashing his drugs in her takeout boxes, Tera begins to feel hope that her family may have a better life with more money, but she soon finds herself in over her head, and her family in danger.
Take Out Girl portrayed a heroine that was delightfully developed in both the writing and in performance — Hedy Wong as Tara was a forced to be reckoned in this role, delivering the perfect mix of vulnerability and strength while carrying the movie into fruition, along with the rest of her endearing and wholly believable castmates. The story speaks to the disillusionment and disenfranchisement experienced when the American dream is not quite attainable, and how the instinct to survive in times of struggle overtakes one’s otherwise righteous disposition. It is a story seen in many movies, from gangster to gang joints, but Take Out Girl‘s female lead brings a unique perspective to this age-old tale.
Take Out Girl felt long, but in a good way. With so many distinct and well-done characters, the movie felt like an epic saga even though the runtime was only a tad over an hour and a half. The evenly staggered ebb and flow of events made Take Out Girl feel like a well-paced movie and it certainly held me in rapt attention. Though it was a good story, the uneventful first third had made me wonder why this story needed to be told, however, by the time the well-hidden plot twist came I was already on the edge of my seat, and wanting for more young Asian-American stories to be told. Wong and Johnson had the climax following soon after the plot twist, with the last third of the film seeming like a flurry of heart-racing and gut-wrenching sequences, which hit home thanks to some artsy cinematography, lighting, and slow-mo effects.
It was impossible not to get caught up in this urban tale of getting caught up in the drug life. Even as far as urban melodramas go, Take Out Girl is one of the most diverse and well cast. This movie should hit home for many struggling in the economic downturn, and thanks to Hedy Wong’s strong acting, her flawed-hero character may strike a particular chord with those with a soft spot for tragic and flawed heroes. Catch this urban drama on the virtual festival circuit!
7.5 out of 10