It's hard to believe that 'The Joy Luck Club' film is over twenty years old. Based on the Amy Tan novel from which she wrote the screenplay, and with the help of executive producer Oliver Stone, director Wayne Wang captivated audiences world-wide with this sensational story. There have been many films dealing with family relationships such as a father/son storyline or mother/daughter plots and vice-versa. With 'The Joy Luck Club', you get a mother/daughter story times ten, as it goes in and out of flashbacks from previous generations. Wang has perfectly crafted a very emotional drama of family with some great comedic breathers in between. No matter what generation timeline we are in, the values and morals this family has bestowed upon their children still ring true in this modern age.
The film is mostly told through the eyes of June (Ming-Na Wen), whose mother has just died and who is asked by her mother's friends to fill in her seat at the mah jong table where the women have met for many years. It is here where June begins to see the culture, tradition, and similarities she has in her mother and her extended family. We go back and forth through flashbacks, telling the stories of these women and their families, with a lot of the stories making your heart sink and eyes tear.
It no doubt has been a rough life at times for these Asian women. I could go into some examples, but if I did, the emotional impact won't be as great. Just make sure you have some tissue handy. That being said, there are some genuine laugh out loud moments, where two mothers have spent their adult lives trying to out do the other with their kids and the activities that their kids are involved in. I'm sure this rings true for most people, and with this film, it is expertly told in a gracious fashion.
Wang has assembled one hell of a cast, all of which do an impressive job. You really believe that these are real people, and this is a documentary. That's the level of commitment these actresses have in delivering their dialogue and showing excellent facial expressions to make us feel happy or sad. It's great to see some faces from past movies show up here such as France Nuyen, Lisa Lu, Tsai Chin, Rosalind Chao, Tamlyn Tomita, and Lauren Tom (Amy Wong on 'Futurama').
These women give powerful performances and in turn this film turned into an award winning movie. This tale of family, love, and loss is one you won't soon forget, and will re-visit often on your television set. Excellent film.
'The Joy Luck Club' comes with a great 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Being that the film is over twenty years old, this is not an overly sharp looking film. In fact, it still has that filmic quality with a lot of softer shots. That being said, this HD transfer does upgrade the detail quite a bit, making a great looking picture. There are a lot of closeups in the film, which provide some well-defined textures, wrinkles, and makeup blemishes.
The wider shots look softer though. The colors are well-saturated and has a warm color spectrum with lots of browns and golds. There is a somber aspect to his color schemes in the film, but they always look beautiful, even as we switch from the past to present day. The black levels run deep and inky with the skin tones looking natural and smooth. There are no major compression problems to speak of.
This release comes with a great lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix. The dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand, free of any pops, cracks, or hissing. The ambient noise is robust and loud in some scenes, especially in the flashback sequences and in scenes where there are many people. The directionality is also quite good in these segments.
In the larger crowd scenes, you will really feel like you are in the middle of everybody, but when it is just the few women sitting down, the sound creates a real intimate atmosphere. The score always adds to emotion perfectly and never drowns out any dialogue or sound effect. This is a well-balanced audio track with a very wide dynamic range.
'The Joy Luck Club' is a great film about family and love. The emotional range of each actor is amazing, which in turn will bring you to tears and laughter. I'm sure we can in one way or another, relate to some of these traditions, morals, and stories. This is a gem of a film, and I'm glad that is still around and on blu-ray. The video and audio are great, but there is not one extra on the disc besides trailer for other movies. Despite that, I still recommend this film.