The dictates of the heart and the unyielding dogma of tradition clash in Face, an undercooked and overstuffed kitchen-sink melodrama about assimilation, interracial relationships, tradition, and estranged mothers and daughters. Flashing back and forth between the late '70s and the present, the film focuses on an ambitious young Asian-American New Yorker (Bai Ling) who's railroaded into marrying the arrogant playboy who raped and impregnated her. Fleeing an impossible situation, Ling moves to Hong Kong, leaving her infant daughter with her meddlesome but loving grandmother. Decades later, a professionally accomplished Ling returns to attend the college graduation of her now-adult daughter Kristy Wu, only to find that Wu has become a prickly, defensive powder keg of rage still furious over he mother's abandonment. In addition, Wu has begun seeing a dreamy African-American DJ (rapper Anthony "Treach" Criss of Naughty By Nature), much to the horror of her tradition-minded grandmother.
Though secondary to the central mother/daughter conflict, the relationship between Wu and Treach desperately lacks chemistry, especially since the screenplay gives them some of the clumsiest would-be flirtatious banter since Hayden Christensen wooed Natalie Portman in Attack Of The Clones. Of course, it doesn't help that the film's flashback-laden structure further slows their relationship's flagging momentum by keeping the lovers offscreen for extended periods, or that Treach seems to have arrived directly from a romance novel, complete with rippling, oft-displayed muscles, soulful eyes, unstinting kindness, and the tireless, unending patience required to break through Wu's thorny defenses. Co-writer/director Bertha Bay-Sa Pan favors long, static, dialogue-heavy scenes punctuated by somnolent montages, which create a mood so dour that they almost invoke nostalgia for the groan-inducing ethnic humor of some of Face's early scenes. Well-intentioned but muddled, Face groans under the weight of its earnest ambition.