THE JOY IS IN THE PERFORMANCES, BUT NOT ALWAYS IN THE CHARACTERS' "LUCK" @ 19 December 2012 02:03 PM
One of the most prestigious films from Disney's Touchstone Pictures division, "The Joy Luck Club" is a generation-spanning, no-holds-barred drama about the interlocking lives and fates of Asian women who meet each week to play Mah-Jongg.

My mom used to do the Mah-Jongg nights in my youthful days, when we lived in Miami. We are neither Asian nor Jewish, but it would appear that the archetypical mother figure is very similar among cultures, including my mom's which is Italian. The gathering scene at the beginning of "Joy Luck Club," especially with its cacaphony of loud, multiple conversations, reminded me very much of when my mother's relatives used to get together.

My point is that there is much in "The Joy Luck Club" with which many of us can identify, regardless of gender or culture. People are people and life can be cruel as well as wonderful.

Be warned -- the goings get very tough in some of the flashback sequence. One scene in particular will never quite leave my mind, or my wife's. I won't spoil it but it involves France Nuyen's character as a young wife and mother, pushed to the edge. (Parent's note: this is a film about a family, but definitely NOT a family film and is rated "R.") My ignorance of the other actors' work is my shortcoming, because these artists are clearly outstanding in their blend of intensity, strength and dimension.

Ms. Nuyen is among the more familiar actors in the film, at least to my little world. She's been in countless films and TV shows, but I remember her best at the side of her husband, actor Robert Culp, on numerous talk shows. Ming Na Wen, the speaking voice of Mulan, plays the central young character. Christopher Rich ("Murphy Brown," "The Charmings," "Reba") appears as a well-meaning but occasionally -- and painfully -- oafish suitor. Among Rosalind Chao's many impressive credits is playing Klinger's wife on "M*A*S*H".



The photography is brilliant and looks marvelous in Blu-ray. The disc could have used some bonus features, though, especially an Audio Commentary. I'm sure budgetary issues are forcing bonus features to the sidelines, but lots of us out here love them, sometimes as much -- and sometimes better than -- the movies.

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