The Joy Luck Club Reviews
The film has its conventional moment, maybe not to the point of predictability, but decidedly to the point of distinctly betraying a potential for surprising uniqueness, which is peculiar, considering that the film often overexplores its potential. By that, I at least mean that ambition drives dramatic value to the point of melodrama, of which there shouldn't be much in this largely genuine drama, whose histrionic lowlights are a little hard to embrace in comparison to the whole of the drama whose genuineness is still, to one degree or another, watered down by sentimentality. Actually, sentimentality is not the only reflection of subtlety issues, because whether it be through certain heavy-handed conflicts or, of course, through the thin portrayal of the male characters, thematic weight is often thrust against your head, and takes it time to do so. Running but a minutes shy of 140 minutes, the film is simply too long, and I can't help but wonder if that's truly because of excess fat around the edges, or simply because this story is too heavily layered to explore tightly, but either way, the final product is perhaps not very predictability because it's often so aimless. I can say with confidence, however, that the aimlessness thrives on focal inconsistency, rather than pacing inconsistencies, because as an episodic look into the stories of eight - count them, "eight" - woman, the film jars from segment to segment, eventually tot he point of being grossly repetitious, perhaps even - dare I say - monotonous. I found the film to be compelling through and through, thus, my patience was firmly held more often than not, but even the film's grip on its loosened at times, largely because of the questionable structuring, and partly because of the heavy-handedness that reflect an ambition which could have ironically held the final product back as underwhelming. Of course, for those with the patience to take on a film this demanding, expect to be rewarded, as the film is predominantly endearing and tasteful, even in its score.
There is not really too much to say about Rachel Portman's score, which is formulaic, despite a potentially unique fusion of Chinese-themed and western world scoring sensibilities, but still pretty solid, not simply in its individual aesthetic quality, but in its fitting in the context of the film, livening it up, and defining the resonance of its dramatic, if not its melodrama. For this, a degree of credit is due to Wayne Wang's direction, which has its heavy-handed moments, but never allows slow spells to work their way in through all of the dragging, while making tender moments count more often not with solid dramatic thoughtfulness that genuine moves. There is about as much inspiration as there is ambition to Wang's direction, and although this ambition gets the best of genuineness with sentimentality arguably more often than it should, realized inspiration is well worth waiting on. These dramatic highlights are so significant because they're worthy of being applied to a narrative so worthwhile, studying on the various struggles of women in China, and how they affected their new lives and the lives of their children in a new world, and therefore carrying themes regarding culture flaws, parenthood, and the value of womanhood and culture altogether. Amy Tan's and Ronald Bass' script explores these themes rather heavy-handedly in a lot of ways, and ultimately takes its sweet time to unravel an uneven narrative, but in regards to its characterization of the female leads who truly drive the depths of this drama, it really stands out, painting their layers thickly enough for them to serve as thorough vehicles for thematic value, yet humanizing them enough to make them compelling figures by their own right. What truly brings these characters to life is, of course, the performances, which are strong essentially across the board, with every cast member, young and older, delivering on the striking emotions and dynamite chemistry which this powerful ensemble character study would be just about nothing without. Like I said, there's a lot to try your patience, but about as much, if not more to really hold your attention and investment, and reward you for all of your patience as a moving drama.
Overall, the occasional formulaic touch reflects a certain laziness, while histrionic occasions, prominent subtlety issues and a serious narrative bloating which is made all the more glaring by exhaustingly repetitious episodicity to focally uneven plotting reflect a great overambition that tries patience, firmly secured enough by lovely scoring, entertaining and often resonant direction, generally well-characterized scripting, and strong performances across the board to make "The Joy Luck Club" a thought-provoking and moving portrait on the distinctions, consistencies and love between women of struggle, pride and family.
3/5 - Good
All mothers had their own battle & in many ways it was their daughters who suffered. Filled with some of the greatest Asian/American actresses.
This powerful drama of mothers & daughters & the pressure they put on one another. This is a heavy film but an impacting one.
This is a Chinese-American chick flick from Amy Tan's prize-winning novel and stars many familiar Asian-American actors.
It's the story of the guilt, and disappointment of these young Chinese-American daughters, trying, ever-so-hard, to measure up to their mother's expectations. It's also about their mother's, competing with each other, pushing their daughters while also remembering the scraping, suffering, and survival, of their old lives back in the old country.
Despite wanting the best for their daughters, the mothers are sort of stuck in "The Chinese Way" of desiring nothing, to swallow other people's misery, and to eat their own bitterness.
As is expected from a decent chick flick, there's more than enough bad relationships with men, but added to this, is the unknowing caucasian men, who, despite maybe good intentions, just don't understand. It's melodramatic, but it's supposed to be.
Added to that, are insights into the Asian-American experience, which I thoroughly enjoyed.