By David-Elijah Nahmod, July 2015 Issue.
An appearance by gay icon George Takei and an hilarious sequence in which mom accidentally ingests Ecstasy are among the high points of Eat With Me, a charming, sweet debut feature from Los Angeles-based filmmaker David Au.
Au’s simple tale is about an estranged mother and son (Sharon Omi, Teddy Chen Culver) who rediscover their love for each other while mom comes to terms with her son’s homosexuality. Through it all, he finds love and struggles to save his debt-ridden restaurant.
The story begins with Emma, a wife and mother, walking out on her loveless marriage after her husband cuts off his wedding ring, claiming it gives him headaches.
Having nowhere to go, she calls her son, Elliot. Their distant and tense relationship becomes even more strained when Emma realizes that Elliot’s handsome youngfriend, Ian (Aidan Bristow), is actually his new boyfriend.
Some fast advice from Elliot’s neighbor, Maureen (Nicole Sullivan), and Star Trek legend George Takei, who she meets on a park bench, causes Emma to have an epiphany: She loves Elliot for who he is and joins in the fight to save his restaurant.
“Most of the film is fictional,” Au said. “I focused on the lack of communication in a family and how dysfunctional that is.”
Au admitted that the wedding ring episode was true, but that his real life parents stayed together.
“I heard that story from my mom,” Au recalled. “It was so ridiculous and bizarre, but she thought it was funny.”
That incident planted the seed for Eat With Me.
“Elliot and Emma don’t know how to communicate with each other,” Au explained. “I use food as an element in their learning how to communicate.”
Au recalled that Takei, whose two scenes in the film were shot on the same day, was a joy to work with.
“He had a chair set up outside his trailer,” recalled the filmmaker. “He talked to everyone: cast, crew, even to people in the park who just happened to be there.”
In his first scene, Takei, who plays himself, meets Emma in a park. As they watch children play he tells her about his husband and, in return, she speaks to him about Elliott. It’s a life-changing moment for the loving mom.
According to Au, casting Takei was much easier than he ever thought it would be.
“My producer, Joyce Liu, sat two seats from him at a theater opening,” he said. “She went up to him and said ‘we want you.’”
What makes Eat With Me stand out is the fact that the lead characters are Asian, a community rarely seen in LGBT cinema. However, the theme is universal and Au’s script could easily be reshot with a white or African American cast without changing the story’s emotional depth.
Au addressed the challenges of being an Asian in Hollywood making a gay-themed film.
“It’s not as hard as it used to be,” he opined. “There are not many stories being told from within the Asian American community, so there is a hunger for these kinds of stories.”
Additionally, Au said that a Kickstarter campaign enabled him to complete the film, and that donations came from various communities.
“I want to thank those communities,” he added.
Eat With Me is now available on various On Demand platforms as well as DVD and Blu-ray Disc.