Picks and Pans Review: The Joy Luck Club

updated 09/27/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/27/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Kieu Chinh, Tsai Chin, France Nuyen, Lisa Lu, Ming-Na Wen, Tamlyn Tomita, Lauren Tom, Rosalind Chao

Daughters craving their mothers' approval, mothers wanting more for their daughters than they had, daughters chafing at their mothers' need to control, mothers trying futilely to save their daughters from pain, each side convinced the other doesn't understand, all parties desperately seeking a cease-fire in the intergenerational war—such is the stuff of this painfully moving adaptation of Amy Tan's best-selling 1989 novel.

Four women, Chinese émigrés to modern-day San Francisco whose "hope was their only joy," have met weekly for more than 20 years to play mah-jongg and compare their lives. Through a series of voice-overs and flashbacks, we learn about the events that molded the women. There is perhaps an overly symmetrical quality to the movie—mother tells story, daughter tells her own story, daughter's experience reflects mother's experience. To the screenwriters' credit the pieces are stitched together almost seamlessly. That the characters in this beautifully performed movie are Chinese is in the end beside the point. It would be difficult to conjure any mother and daughter unable to identify with the women of The Joy Luck Club. (R)

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