Wang is back on the 'women's movie' track of The Joy Luck Club, directing Alvin Sargent's adaptation of Mona Simpson's rites of passage tale. Portman is excellent, balancing wisdom and petulance, loyalty and imposition, as Ann, a 14-year-old dragged away from Bay City, Wisconsin, in the Mercedes of her eccentric mother, speech therapist Adele (Sarandon), who's hellbent on making it in Beverly Hills. That they only get to the foothills can't be counted a real setback. Nor could the compromise apartment, nor the effects of Adele's misjudged romantic liaison, nor the pressure of Ann's increasingly pertinent contribution to family argument. Why, then, does Adele's hard earned veneer of optimism look set to crack? Wang knows his way around material like this: the trick of balancing the tears and laughs without resort to easy targets, special pleading or the diminishment of 'patsy' characters. Adele should have been a tailor made role for Sarandon. The occasional strain in her otherwise fine performance may betoken her easing back on the pedal. Wang's most telling in the quasi-comic riffs and teasing out the reversal of the pair's roles and responsibilities. Wrapping it up, there's nice 'Scope work, fine supporting performances, and a lovely cameo by Milhoan as a sympathetic LAPD officer.
Cast and crew