Festivals Reviews TV & Film

AAAFF 2014: review of “Funny Money”

“Funny Money” is a movie by director Thien Do that focuses on the themes of materialism and wealth. Do made the movie because he suddenly noticed a change in Vietnam’s economy, and he hoped that it could spread awareness about how most people’s lives are set in the wrong direction.

Review by Sara Eunice Martinez

“Funny Money,” or “Tien Chua” in Vietnamese, is a romantic comedy set in Vietnam about a man named Lucky Loc (played by Khuong Ngoc) who has built his fortune upon creating fake money that is buried with the dead. Lucky Loc’s company always has customers coming to him with requests for fake money and high-brand replica items for their deceased loved ones, because it would be a waste to bury real money and luxurious products with them.

"Funny Money" screened at the Austin Asian American Film Festival on Saturday, Nov. 15. Image courtesy of thanhnien.com.vn.
“Funny Money” screened at the Austin Asian American Film Festival on Saturday, Nov. 15. Image courtesy of thanhnien.com.vn.

Lucky Loc got his name for having the perfect life, but that all goes downhill when he comes across a torn bill. In Vietnam, torn money is unusable and it is a sign of disrespect to offer it as payment. Lucky Loc wants to get rid of it, so one day he successfully uses the torn up bill to pay a girl for a bouquet of flowers at a flower shop.

Business plummets and Lucky Loc’s company begins to suffer heavily. Once his business is on the verge of shutting down, he comes to the conclusion that his bad luck is spawning from his disposal of the torn bill.

Stuck with a torn bill, the flower shop girl starts to experience the same misfortunes as Lucky Loc. Very suddenly, she loses her boyfriend and her job, so she becomes convinced that the torn up bill is unlucky.

"Funny Money" screened at the Austin Asian American Film Festival on Saturday, Nov. 15. Image courtesy of news.zdn.vn.
“Funny Money” screened at the Austin Asian American Film Festival on Saturday, Nov. 15. Image courtesy of news.zdn.vn.

Lucky and the flower shop girl eventually find each other and he tries to explain to her why he needs the bill back. She is furious at his act of consciously giving her the torn up bill, so she decides to punish him by holding it for ransom.

If you’re looking for a romantic movie, this is not the one for you. I love romantic movies, but honestly I would not consider this movie romantic at all. There were never any romantic or intimate scenes between the two main characters, and the only time you see a bit of romance is at the end, but even that is still a very minimal amount.

Even though I wasn’t able to get my fix of romance, I enjoyed the refreshing story and the comedy. This movie may not have been very romantic, but it was hilarious. The funny scenes were played out well and the humor was timed perfectly, so I found myself laughing throughout the movie.

The plot was different than usual, but in a good way, as it was aiming to show what the world would be like in such a materialistic world. As someone of a Hispanic background who was born in the U.S., I don’t know much about Vietnamese culture. So, unless you’re Vietnamese, this movie is a good introduction to the culture of the country, but it is easy to get lost in it if you’re not paying attention.

I also want to highlight the actors of the film, because I felt that they did a fantastic job portraying their characters. Vang Tran is a beauty in every second of screen time she has, completely rocking her cute bobbed hair, while Khuong Ngoc has his signature slicked hairstyle.

Romantic comedies are usually predictable. But, dealing with Vietnam’s culture and materialism, “Funny Money” proves itself otherwise, and I found myself impressed with its plot twists and unpredictable events.

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