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The Joy Luck Club  

Director: Wayne Wang

Actors: Kieu Chinh - Suyuan Woo, Tsai Chin - Lindo Jong, Frances Nguyen - Ying Ying St Clair, Lisa Lu - An-Mei Hsu, Ming-Na Wen - Jing-Mei 'June' Woo, Tamlyn Tomita - Waverly Jong, Lauren Tom - Lena St. Clair, Rosalind Chao - Rose Hsu Jordan

Country: USA

One of the better book-to-film adaptations in recent history, The Joy Luck Club features the intertwining lives of four modern Asian-American daughters and their traditional Chinese mothers. Sure, maybe to some it's a bit of a chick-film, but I think that's a bit unfair (I think "I Know What You Did Last Summer" was a chick film, but never mind).

Through a series of flashbacks and personal accounts from the characters themselves, the film explores the past, the immigrant experience and the dramas of culture clash between the old and the new generation. The film could easily descend into melodrama, and on rare occasions it dips dangerously close there, but only because the stories here have a high degree of emotional power, told with such matter-of-factness and quiet dignity that serves to magnify its impact. Wayne Wang handles eight stories with amazing clarity, and one moves into the other with confident smoothness. Part of the power of this film comes from the language and expression, the peculiar ability of immigrants to be able to use simple words to express much more. Amy Tan excels at this in her novel, and much of the novel's original narration is preserved in the film - not surprising considering that the she was hired to adapt her own book for the film. And although the motivations of the older characters are deeply rooted in another culture and time, they are communicated well enough to enable the audience to empathise and sympathise.

The Joy Luck Club is filled by a lot of unknown actors, although some like Ming-Na Wen (who plays An-Mei Hsu), and Tamlyn Tomita (Jing-Mei 'June' Woo) are known from their work in theatre and television. This is an unusual film, not only because of its expertise in telling an emotional story well, but because it has no big names and is made up mainly of a mostly Asian-American cast, a rare occurrence in Western film industries. It is poles apart from the old and rather politically-incorrect "The World of Suzie Wong". Blame it on the moon or something, but I was definitely moved. An under-rated film.

Eden Law

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