Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Joy Luck Club

Waverly: He should have taken only a small spoonful of the best dish until everyone had had a helping.
Lindo: He has good appetite.

Like Raise the Red Lantern, The Joy Luck Club calls the viewer to a deeper understanding of Chinese food and table service in order to follow the interpersonal dynamics at play. For example, here is what happens when Waverly brings her fiancé, Rich, to meet her parents for the first time but fails to explain the finer points of Chinese etiquette in advance:

Waverly: But the worst was when Rich criticized my mother’s cooking, and he didn’t even know what he had done. As is the Chinese cook’s custom, my mother always insults her own cooking, but only with the dishes she serves with special pride.
Lindo: This dish not salty enough. No flavor. It’s too bad to eat. Please.
Waverly: That was our cue to eat some and proclaim it the best she’d ever made.
Rich: You know, Lindo, all this needs is a little soy sauce [which he copiously adds to the platter].
Everyone: [Gasps!]

As the stories of the four mothers and their four daughters unfold, certain dishes become iconic: the watermelon, cleaved open and torn asunder by Ying-Ying’s cruel husband; the special shrimp dish prepared by Lindo; the chocolate and peanut butter pie that Rose bakes for her estranged husband, Ted; the hot pot/soup that scalds young An-Mei; and the stuffed crabs that Suyuan makes from the “best quality.” These foods embody the fears and failures, the hopes and dreams of a group of women who, despite incredible adversities, have persevered and in their search for self-acceptance and love.

Released 1993
Directed by Wayne Wang
Screenplay by Amy Tan and Ronald Bass, based on the novel of the same name by Amy Tan

Starring Kieu Chinh as Suyuan Woo, Tsai Chin as Lindo Jong, France Nuyen as Ying-Ying St. Clair, Lisa Lu as An-Mei Hsu, Ming-Na as Jing-Mei “June” Woo, Tamlyn Tomita as Waverly Jong, Lauren Tom as Lena St. Clair, Rosalind Chao as Rose Hsu Jordan, Christopher Rich as Rich, Michael Paul Chan as Harold, Philip Moon as Ken, and Andrew McCarthy as Ted Jordan

Awards: 1994 Casting Society of America, USA Artios for Best Casting for Feature Film, Drama; 1994 Young Artist Award for Best Actress under Ten in a Motion Picture (Melanie Chang)

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