Rating: 2 stars out of 5
The Stars: Li Bingbing, Russell Wong, Gianna Jun
The Buzz: Directed by Wayne Wang, the filmmaker behind Smoke and The Joy Luck Club
inSing.com thinks: Wayne Wang's directing career has been erratic, and this multi-lingual project that tries to tap the same vein as his hit film The Joy Luck Club isn't his best effort. The original novel by Lisa See chronicled the friendship between two women in 19th century China, while this complicates matters by adding a parallel relationship in modern-day Shanghai.
The crux of the film is about the relationship between two female friends; Snow Flower (Gianna Jun) and Lily (Li Bingbing) in the medieval version and Sophia (Jun) and Nina (Li) in contemporary China, and Wang tries the two timelines to parallel each other but it’s all as confusing as a time-travel story.
There's bits about modern relationships and the fierce changes that Shanghai is going through, even as it flashbacks to Snow Flower and Lily as their lives go through tumult, communicating using their own secret language. Nina has to deal with Sophia’s suicide, and there are additional flashbacks to their younger years where they bonded over Faye Wong and school problems.
Sadly the Joy Luck Club approach doesn't really make the story work, and the medieval storyline that proves the most intriguing is shoved out of the way in favour of the wafer-thin modern-day relationship. As a melodrama, this multi-tiered story can’t stand on its own, despite its luscious production values.