Elaborate, expansive and beautifully written, Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club could only suffer from a translation to the big screen, and so it did with this 1993 adaptation. Even in the hands of a masterful cast and crew, this tale of four Chinese women who immigrated to the United States and their four American-born daughters would be a challenge to translate into the language of the cinema. Director Wayne Wang and his dreadful cast – the performances are almost across-the-board atrocious – had no chance. Ming-Na Wen is the weightless centerpiece here, as a daughter who reunites with her mother’s friends after her mother’s death. What follows is a flashback checklist, in which we visit each of the mothers in their youth, then their daughters at an earlier time in their lives. Each sequence is ponderously narrated by the character at hand. What was amazing about Tan’s novel was how she so convincingly adopted these various voices. Onscreen, however, each character hits the same vague note of generic wistfulness. Things are even worse during the rare dialogue scenes, in which characters loudly confront each other over issues that the novel left simmering under the surface. The Joy Luck Club not only fails to give the novel cinematic stature; it denigrates the delicate beauty of the book itself.