4 American film adaptations that are better than the originals

Tan is taking a breathy approach to her 1991 adaptation of “The Joy Luck Club”: full of visual grace. “The Joy Luck Club” show comes out two decades after its initial screening, when actresses…

4 American film adaptations that are better than the originals

Tan is taking a breathy approach to her 1991 adaptation of “The Joy Luck Club”: full of visual grace.

“The Joy Luck Club” show comes out two decades after its initial screening, when actresses Sook-Yin Lee, Phylicia Rashad, and Cicely Tyson were established parts in the canon of American stage. Three decades have passed since, but what’s known about them has not changed much.

The story of the four friends is quite basic. Six American immigrant sisters from San Francisco, whose younger sister Lee Ann passed away of cancer at age 19. The sisters travel to Manila to visit her grave and reconnect in a form of the hereafter. The language and general plot are standard, but the beauty of Tan’s dialogue is more refined in this adaptation. The film is well structured and follows a general structure for the film, but Tan has taken a breathy approach. It makes the story shareable (it’s less exotic) and shallowened, whereas Tan’s beloved 1988 book (the first of four coming) thrives on the overarching themes it presents. The difference is the difference between a tap dance and a footwork.

There are some first-rate performances in this adaptation, from actresses Constance Wu (who won a Tony for her role in the musical), Loretta Devine and Lea Salonga. Wu sings beautifully and takes on a more traditional accent; Salonga (a 13-time Tony winner) shows audiences new sides of the beloved original, while Devine is the very different Donna who steals the film.

This adaptation includes a number of scenes, and there are enough to keep viewers engaged throughout. It makes for a compelling remake, but it’s more of a walking tour through the “Joy Luck Club” than an exhilarating one.

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