Come See the Paradise

We had to wait almost half a century for a Hollywood feature about one of the most shameful incidents in America's past—the internment of 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry in concentration camps by executive order in 1942, shortly after the U.S. entered World War II. But the filmmaker who took on this task, alas, was Alan Parker (1990). After the offensive distortions of Mississippi Burning, it's nice to see him taking more care in researching his subject, but these characters (the script is his own) are of purest cardboard. In 1936 a militant labor organizer named Jack (Dennis Quaid) in flight from the law settles in LA's Little Tokyo, gets a job as a movie projectionist, and falls in love with Lily Kawamura (Tamlyn Tomita), the daughter of his boss (Sab Shimono). In spite of Lily's father's opposition, and because of California laws forbidding intermarriage, the couple elope to Seattle, where they settle down and have a daughter. After Pearl Harbor the father is arrested for his involvement in Japanese cultural societies, and the rest of his family (including Lily and her daughter, back on a visit) are sent to a desert internment camp. Meanwhile Jack gets drafted and eventually goes AWOL to visit his family in the camp. Parker characteristically aims for the elemental power of silent movies and Norman Rockwell's Saturday Evening Post covers; occasionally this simplicity pays off, but the schematic and didactic nature of his tale ultimately shortchanges the drama in favor of a preachy history lesson—and the occasionally anachronistic dialogue doesn't help.

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