Take Out Girl poses the question: how far would you go to help your family? The latest film from Hisonni Johnson follows a female Asian twenty-something who resorts to desperate measures in an attempt to provide a better life for her family. The film has received some criticism based on a misconception, and the writers are setting the record straight.
In Take Out Girl, Tera (Hedy Wong) and her brother help their mother run a Chinese restaurant. They barely make enough to keep the doors open and then their mom suffers an injury which causes Tera to look for other options. She takes a job with the local drug kingpin moving his product in takeout food boxes. This has caused some to think the filmmakers are promoting or glamorizing the drug game, but here is what co-writer and Hedy Wong told CinemaBlend:
A thing that sometimes gets brought up is, ‘Oh, Hedy, aren’t you afraid that this might, you know, you're promoting…” I hate hearing this when people ask me this, but they'll say ‘Are you trying to promote the drug game? What's going on?’ And for me, no, I'm not. No. If you watch the whole movie, you will see that there is no good thing that ever comes out of it long term. And in this life, the money you make goes even faster.
I won’t spoil the ending here, but as Hedy mentions above, Tera’s choices in the film have negative consequences. It was important to the filmmakers to be true to their own experiences by showcasing specific characters and communities that represent real life. Co-writer and director Hisonni Johnson expanded upon this with the following:
It’s sad that sometimes we do get responses from people that insinuate that we've somehow represented these, the Latino community, Asian American community, Black community, in less than a stellar way. Well, I resent that because I know we approached everything with the intent of giving these groups the utmost dignity. But you can't get respect for a scenario that people don't understand without giving them an example of which to learn from. This is an ugly side of society that actually happens. I come from it…Take Out Girl is a commentary on the perceived black and white nature of criminality. We put a gray in there, and if anyone doesn't see that gray, in my opinion, they don't want to. And that's part of the problem.
As Hisonni Johnson says, Take Out Girl really explores the gray area of criminality, which is one of the most interesting aspects of the film. All of the characters have universally relatable qualities so audiences will be able to put themselves in the story and wonder what they would do. Beyond that, the characters’ motives are clearly laid out, so even when disagreeing with their actions it’s easy to understand and feel sympathy.