July 1st, 2008
I watched this because I read the book a few years ago, and I remember liking it. The book is by Amy Tan, who also collaborated on the screenplay.
I don’t think the movie is good. Maybe the book isnt either. I probably won’t read it again to find out.
A group of middle-aged Chinese immigrant women have a mahjong club, the Joy Luck Club. The movie tells their stories and those of their American-born daughters.
The flashbacks to the lives of the women in China seem half-baked to me. No historical background is provided. China seems to be a place where people are forever on the move, hauling their little babies in wheelbarrows, but we don’t know why. Or at any rate, this movie doesn’t bother to tell us why.
Most Chinese men are presented as unbelievably cruel philanderers. How about the smirking playboy who brings his new lover into the house and introduces her to his wife as “a whore, just like you”? Oh brother. It’s so far off the wall, you almost laugh.
Overall this movie has a smarmy, chickish feeling about it. If you know what I mean. It seems to be thrusting straight for the heart of its demographic - mothers and daughters, and maybe Asian women - and not for anybody else.
I don’t fall into any of those categories. That didn’t stop me from liking the book, but I think the movie is more facile, less committed, and less serious. Not a good effort in my opinion, although the ending is moving and many of the actors are familiar from other contexts. (Keiko from Star Trek, for example, and Dr. Jing-Mei Chen from ER. Andrew McCarthy from St.Elmo’s Fire and Pretty in Pink.)
I’d skip it if I hadn’t already watched it.