By: Alex Phuong (A Toast) –
Amy Tan is currently one of the most celebrated writers in modern times. Her novels include The Kitchen God’s Wife and The Valley of Amazement. Even with her contributions to Asian-American literature, there has only been one major film adaptation of an Amy Tan novel. That novel is none other than the celebrated contemporary classic The Joy Luck Club, and the 1993 film is just about as sumptuous and breath-taking as the original source material.
Even with a running time that is about two-and-a-half hours, this is one of the best film adaptations of any literary work. Maybe the reason why the film is so long is because it does its best to honor the original novel while also presenting the subtle nuances that characterize its complexity. Amy Tan even contributed to the screenplay, which means that she is well-versed and versatile when it comes to her writing. The film itself is tough to sit through at times given its thematic material, but audiences can learn a lot even with all of the tensions that the characters have to endure. The film also beautifully depicts the power of mother-daughter relationships, and such connections actually apply to all women, and not just to the Asian characters from Tan’s imagination. Because of the universal themes within this film adaptation of Amy Tan’s first novel, viewers can learn a lot about the Asian-American experience while also realizing that all people are connected to one another regardless of race, ethnicity, and gender.
This film might have received an R-rating because of its “strong depiction of thematic material,” but that is because Amy Tan wrote about such compelling themes in her celebrated novel. A fun fact is that Ming-Na Wen plays “June” in this film, and she also provided the voice of the eponymous Disney heroine Mulan in one of the most popular Disney films from the famed “Disney Renaissance.” That movie connection also reveals the increasing awareness of Asian-American culture within the 1990s, and that cultural influence continues to this day thanks to prominent Asian-American writers like Lisa See. The upcoming film Crazy Rich Asians (2018) further emphasizes the fact that audiences are learning to accept diversity in modern entertainment.
The Joy Luck Club might have been released nearly 25 years ago (as of 2018), but Amy Tan’s powerful writing and this film reveal the fundamental fact that all people really are fundamentally the same, and that differences add figurative color to the world we live in.
The Joy Luck Club (1993) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: during every game of mahjong
Take a Drink: every time Chinese is spoken
Do a Shot: every time there is voice-over narration
And Cheers!: as this film honors the lives of women and celebrates Asian-American culture