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The Joy Luck Club

by Louise Adams
Wednesday Dec 26, 2012
The Joy Luck Club

I remember enjoying Amy Tan's best-selling 1989 novel, and I recall liking the movie version when it came out in 1993. But the film of "The Joy Luck Club" now feels like a solid wall of angst: rather joyless and lacking in luck.

Tales of mothers and daughters are initiated by four immigrant women, each recalling difficult Chinese childhoods, where their marginalized mothers made deep sacrifices during war and within relationships. Now well-off in San Francisco, the aging mothers play mahjong and attempt to steer their weepy daughters away from manipulative men and poor decisions.

There is endless hardship throughout the flashback scenes, which contain no real-world history on which to frame the devastation, and tears stream non-stop in each of the present-day vignettes as well, culminating in a return visit to the homeland.

Narrated by June (Mina-Na Wen), whose mother Suyuan (Kieu Chinh), founder of the ladies' Joy Luck Club, dies before the movie begins, the film recounts the stories of each of the 16 sets of women. Lindo (Tsai Chin) has difficulty with her former chess prodigy daughter, and June's nemesis, Waverly (Tamlyn Tomita). An Mei's (Lisa Lu) mother became a concubine after being widowed, which also casts a shadow over her relationship with her own daughter Rose (Rosaline Chao). Ying Ying (France Nuyen) holds an even deeper secret from her child Lena (Lauren Tom).

Produced by Oliver Stone, directed by Wayne Wang, and co-written by Tan and Ronald Bass, the Blu-ray has enhanced high-definition picture and sound, but no extras except for subtitles in French and Spanish.

"The Joy Luck Club"

Louise Adams is a Chicago freelance writer at www.treefalls.com (and a nom de guerre).


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