Published Sep 26, 2007Based on a short story but largely improvised, Princess of Nebraska follows Sasha (newcomer Ling Li), a young Chinese woman studying in Nebraska after leaving Beijing. Shes pregnant after a fling with a Chinese opera star named Yang, whos kicked out of the troupe over a scandalous tryst with an American man, Boshen (Brian Danforth). Yang is now working as a hustler on the streets of Beijing and has severed ties to both lovers, even though they want to contact him. Yang travels to San Francisco, planning to abort her child. There, Boshen tells Sasha of his plan to lure Yang to America in order to start a family with Sasha and her baby. Sasha rejects this idea as well as Boshen. Instead, she wanders the streets and befriends X, a prostitute played by Pamelyn Chee.
Auteur Wayne Wang takes a break from making Hollywood films to create a low-budget character piece shot on video about alienation in the U.S. He intended to capture the amorality and aimlessness of the new Chinese youth with Ling. The new Chinese have broken with the past and revere the West and materialism. In other words, Chinese kids are like Western kids.
The problem is that Sashas character is neither fleshed out nor sympathetic. Sasha is mouthy and arrogant. She steals from an unsuspecting family at a mall and then tosses the loot away. She insults Boshens guests at a dinner party. She lionises Paris Hilton. Basically, she does as she pleases with little explanation as to why.
Sashas moments with X inject some welcome energy into the film, as Li and Chee enjoy some onscreen chemistry as close friends. However, we get little sense of the ambivalence within Sasha as she wrestles with getting an abortion. The ending is inconclusive and unsatisfying.
Princess of Nebraska has some good moments and a strong atmosphere but not enough of a story to hold viewers for 77 minutes. (California Asian American Media)