Everyone makes mistakes. Especially in relationships. This is something that I could relate to, having been married once before. When I read Chuti’s script, I was initially scared of the subject matter (troubled marriage, infidelity), especially in a story having been written by my own wife, but I was also drawn to the fallibility of the characters and how real they seemed to me. I saw good people doing bad things in search of their own happiness or simply just trying to find meaning to their lives. I really liked how flawed the protagonist (Cissy) was, yet I also saw her strengths and her heart – not unlike each one of us on our individual imperfect journeys.
The more I read Pretty Rosebud, I felt I knew how to tell this story in a way it should be told. I wanted to tell the story of this woman’s journey, told through her point of view. That said, I made it a point to hire women in key positions because I felt that they would understand and be empathetic with Cissy’s character. I also wanted a very multicultural cast, because too often, stories are pigeon-holed according to individual communities, e.g. a black film, a Latino story, an Asian project, etc. I wanted to emphasize that betrayal and the search for self-expression are universal and cross racial lines.
A desperate woman breaks societal taboos in pursuit of her true self.
Everyone thinks Cissy (Chuti Tiu) has an ideal life, but striving to be the perfect wife and daughter has left her on the verge of a breakdown. A childless marriage to a handsome architect (Kipp Shiotani) has gone stale, and the cultural / religious pressures of her traditional Asian parents propel her to defy societal taboos, awakening something so primal it is both shocking and revelatory. Oscar Torre (CANE, HANGOVER 3) makes his directorial debut with PRETTY ROSEBUD. Written by Tiu and produced by Rebecca Hu (40 IS THE NEW DEAD). Starring: Chuti Tiu, Kipp Shiotani, and Dana Lee.
(this is a very rough draft, but it’ll be a place holder for now)
Cissy Lam is unhappily married to long-unemployed architect Phil. She strives to juggle household and work responsibilities, and asks Phil to help her by mailing their bill payments. But as soon as Cissy leaves, Phil habitually heads back to bed. Meanwhile, Cissy squeezes a workout and Mass before work, since it’s Ash Wednesday – she has to fulfill her religious obligations.
At work, Cissy’s boss, Dominique, surprises her and co-worker Scottie with their next project – Frank Allen’s congressional campaign. That evening, Cissy waits at home for Phil, ready to share her exciting news. As Phil sneaks into bed late, Cissy gets affectionate, but Phil refuses her advances, adding insult to injury.
The next day, Phil avoids going to lunch with Cissy’s family and instead opts for golf. At the restaurant, Cissy suffers through her father’s grilling about work and Phil. Dad also grills her brother Jun about his divorced girlfriend Candace, saying, “Divorce is a sin.” At the same time, Dad flirts with the waitress. Later on, to let out her frustrations, Cissy boxes with her trainer, Alejandro, which escalates into impulsive, passionate sex in the gym laundry room. Back at work, in the foyer, a familiar stranger introduces himself – John. Cissy contemplates her adultery: what did she just do? Meanwhile, Phil turns down an unappealing job offer.
At an Easter party, relatives pressure Cissy and Phil to have children. Cissy and Phil leave, arguing. The next Sunday, Cissy runs into church late. In the confessional, once Fr. Antonio learns of her adultery, he gives sage advice – “You can’t ride both sides of the fence.”
Cissy comes home from work to find Phil smoking marijuana and playing video games. During dinner, Phil watches a soccer match and ignores Cissy. At Frank’s fundraiser, Cissy is lauded for her campaign efforts, and Phil desperately wants to leave.
While grocery shopping, Mom shares that Cissy and her dad are similar; they have strong libidos. Mom chuckles about how Cissy always liked boys but admonishes her: that’s not the key to happiness. In her office parking lot, Cissy bumps into John again. While Phil goes on a job interview, Cissy and John have coffee. Phil impatiently leaves without getting an interview; in the meantime, Cissy and John have clandestine sex in his car’s backseat. As Phil walks home, dejected, Cissy gets out of John’s car, self-loathing evident on her face – two parallel discontented souls.
Back at home, Cissy stands in the shower, catatonic. Phil comes home and starts packing – he’s going with his buddies on last minute golf getaway. After Phil leaves, Cissy contemplates her situation, drinking wine alone.
The next morning, Cissy visits Alejandro for an angry tryst. Cissy asks Alejandro about a weathered newspaper clipping, and Alejandro shares how he lost the title fight. Later at work, Frank stops by her office to give her lunch and invites her to come to Sacramento over the weekend for the campaign. Cissy declines, her suspicions rising.
After arriving home late, Cissy hears a phone message from Phil – he and his buddies won’t come home tonight because of traffic. Cissy has had enough. The next morning, Cissy instant messages with her brother, Jun, telling him she’ll move in with their parents to get some space. Dominique calls and asks Cissy to come into work on her day off. She goes to the bedroom to change clothes, leaving the instant message on her computer. Phil comes home and sees the instant message. He confronts Cissy and they fight; Cissy leaves for work.
At the office, Cissy is emotionally unstable; Scottie asks her what’s wrong. They go for a walk and Cissy shares her problems. Back at the apartment, Cissy packs her bags, and she and Phil type out a separation agreement. Later, Cissy has a sordid fling with Alejandro in a bar bathroom.
Now in her childhood home, Cissy and her parents have dinner with Jun and Candace, who announce their engagement. While washing dishes, Dad unleashes a tirade: Jun shouldn’t marry Candace, and Cissy needs to make peace with Phil. Over the weekend, Cissy works late, and Frank makes a pass at her. Concerned, Cissy visits Scottie and asks for advice. Phil waits outside Scottie’s home, spying on Cissy.
As Cissy sleeps in her childhood bedroom the next morning, Mom comes in and invites her to a dinner. Cissy declines; she and Phil are cooking dinner back at the apartment. When Cissy arrives, Phil confronts her – he knows she has been cheating on him. Cissy breaks down and visits Fr. Antonio for guidance. He tells her that instead of going to other people to get what she needs, she should look inside herself. Later at her parents’ home, Cissy cooks dinner with Mom. While taking out the trash, she sees what she believes to be a love note written to her dad.
Cissy confronts Dad about his infidelity. Dad tearfully admits his wrongdoing, explaining they never told Cissy or Jun to protect them. Later, Cissy sits in church, listening to Fr. Antonio’s lecture: make things right, before it’s too late. His words and many others ring in Cissy’s ears; she goes for a run into the ocean, fighting the waves as she fights her demons. She emerges, at peace, knowing what she has to do.
Cissy quits the campaign and comes clean with Phil: she doesn’t want to be married anymore. She and Phil have an unconventional divorce ceremony, and Cissy moves to a brand new place, all her own.