Adapted from Amy Tan’s novel, this complex drama is told with multiple storylines and flashbacks about the experience of Chinese and Chinese-American characters. It is principally about the relationships between a female friendship group (and their mothers and their daughters) with each of the four members of The Joy Luck Club of mahjong players getting to tell their story


In the section about Lindo Jong (Tsai Chin) we encounter her adult daughter Waverly who brings her fiancé – an American caucasian – to a family dinner. It does not go well


“We’re talking about culture differences,” says Maysie Hoy, ACE. “The poor guy is thrown into a situation with future in-laws and is trying to impress them but in so doing he does all the wrong things.


“When Waverly introduces him, I stay on the shot of Lindo’s face because it tells you everything — that it is going to take a lot to impress this woman. Her performance is so subtle throughout the whole piece you know there’s tension underneath her demeanor.


She continues, “After everything the fiancé does I cut to Lindo for her reaction then to Waverly feeling really uncomfortable about the whole situation. The narration helps explain how they were feeling. At the same time, he is not ‘reading the room’ and in a way you feel sorry for him because he’s doing his best with the little knowledge he has of the culture. You do begin to wonder why Waverly loves this guy but in the preceding and following scenes we learn that Waverly can never please her mother and that this affects her.”


Hoy’s main challenge in this film was managing the transitions between different time periods. Conventional fade in/outs or dissolves weren’t going to work so Hoy and Wang came up with a way of using sound effects to bring audiences in and out of scenes.


We also utilized the elements that all four women represented,” she explains. “Lindo’s element is fire. Any scene with her you hear a faint sound of fire crackling in the background. That challenge was fun because we wanted to make the transition so subtle that the audience would only be subliminally aware.”


There is humor in the scene, particularly when Waverly and her fiancé are in the car on the way home. The setup is that he has lathered soy sauce onto a special dish Lindo had prepared, coupled with the soft offscreen reaction of ‘oh oh’ by someone round the table.


“When I was cutting the scene I was relating it to my own personal background,” Hoy says. “I’m married to an American man and the first time he came to dinner – it didn’t go as bad as this – but my mum did all the stereotyped stuff like making certain dishes and Americanized Chinese food. So I had a lot to draw on.”


The film received renewed attention after the success of Crazy Rich Asians. In 2020, The Joy Luck Club was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.


“I think the difference in the legacy of Joy Luck Club and Crazy Rich Asians is that universality of theme,” says Hoy. “The mother and daughter, daughter and husband relationships are themes that never go away


“In the dynamics of my family, you have to have a sense of humor and a pretty thick skin. We can dish it out and take it. If we like you the teasing begins and it gets pretty brutal at times.”


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