Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Joy Luck Club (1993)

A Heartbreaking and Powerful Testament to the Human Spirit.

The 1993 film adaptation of Amy Tan's bestselling novel is both a delight and a moving experience, an anthology of stories wrapped in one Chinese-American woman's journey to understand her roots. Wayne Wang (Eat a Bowl of Tea) directs a large, outstanding cast spread over eight different tales of the lives of Chinese women, most of them set in the past. The script by Tan and Ronald Bass (Rain Man) is a delicate balance of emotions that swell but don't gush, and Wang brings impressive texture and a personal feel to Tan's descriptions of daily life in the Chinese-American community. This sprawling, good-looking movie makes for a cathartic tearjerker one can feel good about. --Tom Keogh

"The Joy Luck Club" is a ground-breaking film with universal themes that anyone can relate to regardless of age, gender or nationality. Truly epic in its scope and haunting vision, the movie is also deeply heartfelt and familial, enhancing its ability to speak to the audience in myriad, boundless ways. This is an intimate portrait of two generations of Asian women - the mothers who risked everything to create a better life for their daughters in the United States. At this juncture in American history, the movie resonates more than ever by reminding the viewer of our fore-mother's immigrant experience. In doing so, "The Joy Luck Club" serves as a vibrant contemporary document on freedom and the pursuit of happiness.

Ming-Na Wen (now known to millions as Ming-Na or Deb Chen on NBC's top rated drama "ER") is superb in the central role of June, greiving for her recently deceased mother with the 3 "aunties" who miantain her place at the mah-jon table. Their gatherings continue, with June's presence, and in the process form the backdrop from which these women's personal stories and life-journies are shared. Each auntie - and their now-adult Americanized daughters - explain their often-harrowing attempt to escape Communist China and their difficult transition to an American way of life in the U.S. Tears flow in both generations, not only for what has been lost, but also for what has been found here - a society with different values that challenges these women in unexpected but nearly universal ways. As both generations - and all eight women eventually - share their stories, the viewer literaly steps into each life, aware of where the characters end up, yet fully experiencing the challenges each of them faces. Set against the backdrop of June's trip to China to find her long-lost sisters (whom her mother was forced to leave behind in one of the film's most powerful sub-plots) "The JOy Luck Club" can be ANY family's story, regardless of how long they or their ancestors have lived in this country. In doing so, it succeeds at building bridges to the past, while staunchly looking ahead to the future. This is the sort of film that embraces real life and human themes, but also puts a face on what it means to be a zero-generation immigrant, or an exile in a land far from one's home and culture. Like the current spate of Latin and Soviet block immigrants and the last century's explosion of new Americans from Europe and Africa, we recognize through the characters the meaning and value of freedom, family and peace as well as the unimaginable challenges our elders faced in coming to this land of opportunity.

The cast of Asian-American actresses is uniformly superb, straddling a delicate balance for the viewer that requires they be both accessible AND remote at once. Although long seen as a "woman's movie" the film deserves to be widely experienced by all people, including men, who might otherwise reject the film as nothing more than handkerchief fluff. In fact, since few similar films exist with central male characters, "The Joy Luck Club" stands as a film I believe many men would embrace if they give it a chance. The film speaks for our fathers and brothers, not just our sisters, mothers or wives. This is grand, epic storytelling with a heart, beautifully directed by Wayne Wang and amazingly accessible in every way, due to its stellar cast. Had there been a Best Ensemble Oscar designed to honor the contribution of a group of actors at the top of their form, "The Joy Luck Club" cast would have surely been honored. (review by Jose R. Perez "Jose")

Good quality XviD; 576x304 [=1.895]; FPS 23.976; Video Bitrate 566 kb/s; Audio bitrate; 125 kb/s [2 channel(s)] VBR audio

Language: English / Mandarin / Cantonese
*Subtitles are used in scenes with Mandarin/Cantonese dialog.

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