Eddie Huang Talks 'Boogie,' Depicting Abuse In Cinema, Avoiding Reviews & More [The Playlist Podcast]

Eddie Huang is the true definition of a multi-hyphenate in Hollywood. We’re talking someone that is a famous chef and restauranteur, an author of a best-selling memoir, which was turned into a critically-acclaimed sitcom, “Fresh Off the Boat,” a TV show host of travel and cooking shows, and now a writer-director of a feature film, “Boogie.” And according to Huang, all that other stuff has been leading to the making of “Boogie” and his arrival as a feature filmmaker.

Huang joined The Playlist Podcast to talk about his new film “Boogie,” which is currently in theaters and heading to VOD later this week. The writer-director clearly poured his heart and soul into the making of “Boogie,” a coming-of-age film about an Asian-American teen (Taylor Takahashi) trying to secure a big basketball scholarship while also attempting to woo the girl of his dreams and also navigate an incredibly tumultuous relationship with his parents at home. And it’s that last bit, about the parents, that hits hardest for Huang.

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“Boogie” features a really brutal, antagonistic relationship between the 18-year-old’s parents, which continues to escalate over the course of the film, leading to pretty catastrophic results. It’s the type of relationship that doesn’t get shown very much in mainstream cinema and is something that, according to Huang, could come from a guy that isn’t well-versed in filmmaking.

“This was my biggest blind spot when making this film, and I’m glad I had this blind spot,” he said about depicting the abuse in the family. “Originally, there was even more abuse…that’s what I experienced. That’s what I know. That’s what a lot of kids know.”

He added, “I really think cinema is about pointing the camera at things you see truth in, that you see honesty in, that you feel other people should see, as well. And perhaps, what they have not seen and not turned that rock over.”

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Because of this blind spot, Huang paints a picture of a family that is always on the verge of a blowout. And sometimes, that can make an audience member uncomfortable, as they watch this coming-of-age film. But that’s something Huang feels is integral to his filmmaking style.

“I don’t think, necessarily, about how the audience is going to feel,” the director explained. “In terms of characters and arcs, I think about it in a documentary way. What have I seen happen in this world? Because I don’t want to perpetuate false narratives. The real narrative about kids that are abused is that your dad is still your dad and your mom is still your mom. You find a way to love them, and you find a way to believe they love you. That’s what this story is about.”

As Huang is quick to admit, the reviews for “Boogie” haven’t been entirely glowing. Some critics pointed out just how rough the family relationship is in the film and how it verges on “melodramatic.” This is something that really affected Huang, as he read the early reviews of his debut film.

“Do you guys think for one second that maybe people actually live these lives?” he said about the critics who gave negative reviews. “I’m depicting my reality. And you’re now mad at me depicting my reality and not making it more entertaining for you. Where’s the empathy?”

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Huang continued, “I made this film so that other people and other kids that grew up like me could feel less alien. Hearing people’s response just continues to affirm my alien-ness, my strangeness.”

Again, if you haven’t seen “Boogie,” you can find it in select theaters, via Focus Features, and on VOD beginning March 26. You can hear our entire conversation about “Boogie” below:

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