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The Joy Luck Club Review

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Adapted from the novel by Amy Tan, four women, born in China, but living in America reflect on their lives and childhoods in China, while their four daughters, who were all born in America, do the same.

★★★★

Dramatic recollections of fascinating pasts in pre-Revolutionary China and funny, angry, tearful psychodramas in contemporary America are here skillfully and symmetrically juxtaposed to telling effect by Wayne Wang in this marvellous and right-on distillation of feminine hopes and hurts across the generations.

Adapted by Amy Tan from her novel, and executive produced by Oliver Stone, it uses as its starting point the memories, struggles and expectations of four middle-class mahjong-playing bosom buddies, ageing Chinese immigrants who dreamed the American Dream. Interwoven with their spellbinding tales of eventful early lives and lessons learned (depicted in rich, exotic, tragic and magic period sequences with scads of actresses taking each role) are the confidences of their four American daughters.

The younger women's stories of childhood, careers, love, difficulties and disappointments are the stuff most will identify with, inducing laughter, tears and cringes of recognition as the relationships each head to a classic mother-daughter confrontation that brings new understanding. But this is no conventional women's picture, touching deeply on tradition, change, family power struggles and ties that give it wit and wisdom resonating beyond cultural and gender boundaries.

Wang never loses the pieces, directing with clarity, force and evident affection, building a multi-plotted, multi-layered collection of intimate individual stories into a sweeping, emotional mosaic of life. Wonderful