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The Joy Luck Club(1993)
The Joy Luck Club tells the uplifting story of four remarkable friends whose extraordinary lives are filled with joy and heartbreak. Their Lifelong friendship reveals a mosaic of the startling events and conditions that have shaped their lives - and how these experiences have affected the hopes and dreams they hold for each of their children.
For more about The Joy Luck Club and the The Joy Luck Club Blu-ray release, see the The Joy Luck Club Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on January 24, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: France Nuyen, Ming-Na Wen, Tamlyn Tomita, Lauren Tom, Chao Li Chi, Victor Wong
Director: Wayne Wang
» See full cast & crew
The Joy Luck Club Blu-ray Review
Tiger mothers and their tiger cubs.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, January 24, 2013
Author Amy Chua holds the distinction of having helped to introduce a term to the general public which has since become instilled as an easily recognized colloquial turn of phrase, when she wrote Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother in 2011. So-called "tiger mothers" may not have been named as such more than two decades earlier when another Amy, Amy Tan, wrote her best selling novel The Joy Luck Club, but as that old adage goes, "a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet", which in this case might be paraphrased to state "a Chinese tiger mother by any other name would still instill terror in her daughter's heart". There's an obviously different dynamic between mothers and daughters than between mothers and sons or fathers and sons. My own wife for example can hardly go a day or two without calling her mother for often very long phone chats. Even when my parents were alive, I would no sooner think of calling them for a "chat", short or long, than I would think of planning a trip to a far off planet (and frankly that second option would probably have occurred more readily to me on any given day). But the mothers and daughters in Tan's multi-generational opus have a special bond that goes beyond even that of "typical" mothers and daughters, and it's that yoke, in all its glory and tribulation, that forms the basis of Tan's piece, which Tan herself adapted (with Ronald Bass) to the medium of film in 1993. While some Asians and Asian-Americans decried the film for fostering certain stereotypes (ironically more about men than about women), those of us who weren't particularly tuned in to the Chinese immigrant experience found The Joy Luck Club to be a really heartfelt and unexpectedly moving piece that offered a glut of wonderful performances from a variety of Asian-American performers who really have had far too few opportunities to strut their collective stuff on the big screen. Unabashedly sentimental and (some might argue) at times overly melodramatic, The Joy Luck Club looks at the interwoven destines of four Chinese immigrants whose mahjong club has brought them together regularly for years. The death of one of the women creates a new opportunity for the extended families of all of them to gather, which in turn leads to a series of flashbacks where we're given some rather remarkable back stories for various characters.
Tan's original novel was a multi-sectional opus that spent each section on certain focal elements, like histories of the mothers or both the childhood and adult "adventures" of their daughters. The film version of The Joy Luck Club takes a somewhat more fluid approach, one of the wise decisions that Tan herself brought in helping to adapt her sprawling novel. We therefore tend to segue from story to story and flashback to flashback, but due to some very smart writing and crisp directorial touches by Wayne Wang, the rather large assemblage of characters always remains clear. The main narrator of the film is June (Ming-Na Wen), whose mother has just died and who now finds herself asked to take her mother's place at the mah jong table where three other Chinese born women of her mother's generation have sat together for untold years. There are therefore two salient qualities inherent in The Joy Luck Club from virtually the get go, namely a sense of family (and extended family) as well as the interplay between generations and the concomitant wash of memories and stories which that interplay implies.
There are some incredibly emotional stories which are told in The Joy Luck Club and it would be a disservice to really discuss any of them in any detail. But for every heartbreak, there's also some fantastic humor, including two highly competitive mothers who, when their daughters are young, try to score points with each other by repeatedly talking up what their daughters have accomplished. The "ripple effect" of that kind of oneupsmanship (or in this case oneupswoman ship) is then revealed in terms of how the now grown daughters feel about their mothers' long ago brag-fests. The screenplay is a continuing marvel of finding links between stories and ideas. If Tan's original novel was a kind of "sectional" TV Dinner of sorts, with the various courses laid out in discrete compartments, the film takes more of a (to continue the food metaphor) casserole or even "Salad Shooter" approach, ping ponging between past and present and mother and daughter more or less effortlessly.
Aside from the beautifully heartfelt screenplay, the main drawing power here is the amazing collection of Asian-American acting talent, talent that is too often consigned to supporting roles but who here, even in this admittedly ensemble undertaking, are able to really show their range. Classic film lovers will no doubt recognize such names as France Nuyen (South Pacific), but there are other wonderful turns by perhaps less well known actors, including Tsai Chin (The Inn of the Sixth Happiness), and Lisa Lu (The Last Emperor ) in the "older" generation. The "younger" generation has a number of names well known to both film and television audiences, including Rosalind Chao (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, What Dreams May Come), Tamlyn Tomita (The Day After Tomorrow) and Lauren Tom (Futurama, King of the Hill). "Older" and "younger" turn out to be somewhat relative terms, however, for one of the most compelling things about The Joy Luck Club is seeing the mothers as young women themselves at more or less exactly the same ages their daughters are in "contemporary" time. Some brilliant casting in this regard helps to make this "time traveling" more than believable.
The Joy Luck Club manages to easily extend beyond its Asian-American roots to touch several universal themes of love, loss and most importantly family. Uncommonly profound and also unusually moving, it's one of those rare films that manages to rather radically reinvent its source novel without losing one iota of the novel's inherent power and grace.
The Joy Luck Club Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Joy Luck Club is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Disney/Buena Vista with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.85:1. The film has always looked pretty soft, and this Blu-ray continues that tradition, but there is a noticeable and rather dramatic uptick in both saturation and clarity in this new high definition presentation. The best sequences here are probably the "historical" segments, when the film tends to traffic in somewhat more exotic and/or opulent imagery than the often brown, drab imagery of the reunion party and other "current day" footage. Wang tends to favor close-ups and midrange shots throughout the film, both of which offer very good to excellent fine detail. No over aggressive digital tweaking seems to have been done to this release, which retains a very natural filmlike quality.
The Joy Luck Club Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Joy Luck Club features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that, if nothing else, offers the sumptuous beauty of one of Rachel Portman's most evocative and achingly gorgeous scores. The music in fact provides some of the most consistent surround activity, but the film actually has rather good immersion in many large crowd scenes, including the reunion where discrete channelization really helps to create a very vivid sonic creation of a crowded home full of people in different rooms. Dialogue is also very well supported and there's even some perhaps unexpected dynamic range courtesy of some of the backstory sequences. Fidelity remains excellent throughout this presentation and while the overall impression left by this track may seem rather restrained, it's actually very nicely balanced and nuanced, much like the film itself.
The Joy Luck Club Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
There are no "real" supplements on this disc other than "Sneak Peeks" for other Disney/Buena Vista titles. I never include such content as scorable in my assessment of supplements.
The Joy Luck Club Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I hadn't watched The Joy Luck Club in several years before I popped in this Blu-ray, and I had frankly forgotten what a wonderfully engaging film it is. Full of really "true" feeling family dynamics, the film is a cornucopia of humor, tragedy, pettiness and nobilityŚmuch like life itself. Some may feel the film tugs a little too aggressively at the heartstrings, but a good cry never hurt anyone. This Blu-ray offers nice looking video and good sounding audio, and even without any supplements, this release comes Highly recommended.
The Joy Luck Club Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Joy Luck Club Blu-ray - October 3, 2012
Disney/Buena Vista is planning to release director Wayne Wang's 1993 drama, The Joy Luck Club, to Blu-ray this December. Based on a novel by Amy Tan, the film has never made its transition to HD until now. Cover art, special features and technical specs have yet ...
The Joy Luck Club Blu-ray, Forum Discussions
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