Easter Sunday

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What it’s about:

A down on his luck actor and single father, Joe Valencia (Jo Koy) heads home to celebrate Easter Sunday with his rowdy, dysfunctional, loving Filipino-American family. As he struggles to juggle his career and fatherhood, he has to somehow navigate the idiosyncratic labyrinth of first-generation family dynamics, confront his past and present, and mediate disputes, all the while giving an outstanding karaoke performance.

Names you might know:

Stand-up phenomenon Jo Koy, who has been selling out big shows and appearing in his own Netflix specials (Jo Koy: In His Elements, Jo Koy: Comin’ in Hot) stars along with a Filipino-centric cast, which includes Grammy award winner Tia Carrere (Wayne’s World), Lou Diamond Philipps (La Bamba, Young Guns), Grammy winner and Tony nominee Eva Noblezada (Hadestown and Miss Saigon) and comedian Jimmy O. Young (Silicon Valley and Crazy Rich Asians).

Why it’s worth your time:

The first Filipino-focused film produced by a major Hollywood studio, Easter Sunday shines a light on an underrepresented culture through humor, the great equalizer, bringing guards down to allow for a few complex subjects to be tackled.

The story may seem like one we’ve seen, a midlife dad at a crossroads who goes home to his bickering family and struggles to be a good dad and a good son. But it’s actually a look at how assimilation can be a double-edged sword, both a survival tool and an instrument that can distance an immigrant from their roots. And to realize the ‘American Dream,’ they have to be able to use the instrument effectively and make sacrifices accordingly.

It can be a bit formulaic, and some of the scenes and resolutions don’t feel warranted, but it offers a fresh point of view and comes from a place of love and understanding. It’s the American dream from a immigrant’s point of view; a world where you’re stuffed to the gills and you resolve family disputes via an epic karaoke showdown! What’s not to love?

The takeaway:

A broad comedy about the Filipino diasporic experience that’s not heavy-handed or exploitative, Easter Sunday brings respect, dignity, and playful fun to an underrepresented group of people who are constantly trying to find identity and a better life in their adoptive country. It’s not perfect, but it’s a good start.

Watch it with:

Family and friends who can relate to the immigrant experience, or people who want to experience and understand a different culture, support diversity, and appreciate good food and an epic karaoke showdown.

Worth noting:

Koy pitched movie projects over the years, but it wasn’t until Steven Spielberg caught his stand-up special in 2019 that this film got the green light (it was produced by the legendary director).  And despite his comedy specials on Netflix, Koy insisted that Easter Sunday debut in movie theaters so that Filipino Americans could see themselves on the big screen — and not just in the US, but internationally. It has been the talk of the town in the Philippines.

One more fun fact: A Balikbayan box, the care package featured in the film, is a Filipino immigrant’s way of staying connected to their loved ones and roots back home. The box’s contents are a mishmash of anything from chocolates to shirts to perfume, shoes, and food.

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