12 August 2002 | briankistler
There are quite a few themes in this movie. One that springs to mind for me, right away, is that of a generation gap AND a cultural gap. This is a story about Chinese-American girls, growing up in America, raised by women who came of age in Mainland China, decades earlier. One interesting thought: most of these Chinese mothers came to America, wishing to fight like a tiger for their daughters...........wishing that they could give their daughters a much better life (and a MUCH LESS PAINFUL life) than they had. Unfortunately most of their daughters interpreted their tenacious desire to fight for them (and push them to excellence) as a lack of love: hence the "double-edged sword" of "giving their all" for their daughters.
I am all too keenly aware that this is what most people would call a "chick flick". Nevertheless, as a man, I loved it. I enjoyed how the stories of the mother's and daughter's childhoods (and their younger years in general) were interwoven throughout the movie like a Chinese tapestry or quilt. Moving in and out of the American and Chinese cultures made this even more interesting to watch. Every tale, that each Chinese mother narrated, was like a work of art: a work of art complete with flutes, violins and various types of Chinese instruments in the background. Their tales were also frequently accompanied by breathtaking views of snowcapped mountains and the wide, open Chinese countryside (so very similar to what we have seen on sheets of rice paper or on porcelain plates).
There was also a lot of powerful energy in this film. Not all of it was the negative energy of deep conflicts and emotional strife between mother and daughter. Much of it was quite positive and invigorating: the energy that filled the room of these daughters and mothers when they got together to CELEBRATE LIFE at an "extended family" party...........The very moving and touching energy, that surged forth, when mother and daughter often came together, after years and decades of conflict..........and realized that they were on each other's team..........The tears of joy that often sprang forth, when a given daughter realized, for the first time, that her mother was not disappointed in her..........and that her own happiness was PARAMOUNT, in her mother's heart.
In a small way, it did bother me that every single one of the Chinese mothers came from a dysfunctional family (and/or background). I do realize, however, that the overall story would not have been anywhere near as "riveting", had each daughter not had a mother who had to fight and claw her way to survival (and to sanity!). I will say that, of all the mothers, Tsai Chin's Lindo Jon character was perhaps the most unforgivable role model for maternity. Most of my friends, who have seen this movie, agree that she was almost HATEFUL in her attitude toward her daughter! However, this part of the movie did help make the overall plot very interesting (and deeply charged with emotion!).
A few closing comments: as a former student of Chinese History I really enjoyed seeing some of the common Chinese familial traits played out in this movie: respect for elders, honoring one's ancestors and being an obedient child. Finally, I must compliment the casting director of The Joy Luck Club: you selected some of the prettiest little girls to play the mothers and daughters in their earliest years.