Blending Two Cultures Onscreen: The Joy Luck Club

         The Joy Luck Club, directed by Wayne Wang in 1993, is the tale of four women who compare life in America to the lives they lived in China as they struggle to raise their own children in the United States. In China, women are often treated as second-class citizens and are sometimes abused. Through sad and painful experiences, these four women played by Ming-na Wen, Rosalind Chao, Russell Wong, and Lisa Lu, attempt to raise their daughters to live the American dream by giving them unconditional love and support, which was not available to them as female children in China. These women reveal their individual accounts in narrative form as they relive childhood in their memories. These flashbacks transport the viewers into the minds of these women, and we see the events occurring through their eyes. There are many conflicts and misunderstandings between the two generations due to differences in upbringing. In the end, however, these conflicts bring mothers and daughters together to form a lasting bond.

         The setting plays an important role in the effectiveness of the movie. The filming of The Joy Luck Club was done in various locations. Some were filmed in San Francisco, and others were filmed in China. Because the story dealt with the Chinese people and their customs, the first scenes of the film were filmed in China. The producer moved the setting back to the United States as the storyline progressed and the daughters emerged. Because the movie moved back and forth from the nineteen forties to the sixties and later to the nineties, the producers had to use various symbolic signs to tell its viewers the current period of time. For example, songs, costumes, and hair-dos help the viewer to determine the time period. The Joy Luck Club displayed a variety of costumes. They used Chinese garments and clothing to give its viewers a sense of the Chinese tradition and culture. Make-up was also used in different scenes to create various atmospheres.

         There were many main characters in the movie. I feel that Kilu Chinh did an outstanding job in portraying her character, the strong-willed Suyuan. Back in China, Suyuan was forced to abandon her twin babies due to severe dehydration and a near death experience. She was fortunate, however, to be rescued and later immigrated to the United States. Here, her perseverance was tested when her American daughter felt that she demanded too much from her. In a very touching moment, Suyuan explains that she has never expected anything from her and only hoped and prayed for her success. An important supporting character, Lisa Lu played the character of An-Mei. Her noble heart gave her the strength to make sacrifices; and, through her sacrifice, she was able to teach her daughter how to be strong. The actors and actresses were very effective. They were able to bring out the best in the story, originally written by Amy Tan. They were very realistic and played their parts with a lot of emotion.

         Throughout the film, Chinese music was included to add to the effectiveness of the storyline. Certain aspects of the film were made to appear aged by adding yellow lighting. In certain areas, a plain background was used to reveal the lonely setting and the poor living condition in China. The use of camera angles and close-ups make the movie more intense and interesting.

Tara Wagner

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