Book vs Movie: The Joy Luck Club

 

“The Joy Luck Club comes rushing off the screen in a torrent of memories, as if its characters have been saving their stories for years, waiting for the right moment to share them.” 
– Roger Ebert
Roger Ebert loved the film version of The Joy Luck Club but I’m not so sure that I’d give it two thumbs up.
It’s funny because when you describe Amy Tan’s bestselling book to someone it sounds relatively simple: four Chinese women tell rich, detailed stories about their lives and the lives of their children and grandchildren. But when I watched the movie I realized how hard it must have been to adapt this novel into a film.
Considering how many stories are interwoven into the overall plot, the book flows quite naturally. But the film seemed disjointed to me, with the constant flipping back and forth between time periods and narrators. While I think the movie did a good job of keeping it all together (there are sixteen tales interwoven in the film version), the book did a much better job of presenting the stories of these fascinating women. So I guess that I appreciated Amy Tan’s writing more than I appreciated Wayne Wang’s directing.
I found the book really easy to follow but the movie was a little confusing because all the stories just flowed into each other, sometimes without much explanation or background information. They’re actually grouped together in a much more obvious mother-daughter way than in the book, which might make it easier for some people to follow. But the movie doesn’t spend as much time on the history of Chinese superstition and folk tales (which plays an important role in all the stories) so the contrast between the mother’s past and the daughter’s present isn’t as strong, making the conflict harder to understand.
In the end, both the book and movie versions of The Joy Luck Club are worth spending time on although I’d much rather read the book in this particular case.

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