Don't let a bad movie ruin a good book
I've seen so many good movies set in scenic places in China or by Chinese directors: Raise the Red Lantern; The Last Emperor; Ju Dou; Farewell My Concubine; Lust, Caution... I could go on, but let's suffice it to say that I was eagerly anticipating the release of this movie.
I expected great things. I expected it to live up to the book, which, by the way, was a wonderful read. Let's just say the phrase "artistic license" doesn't begin to describe how different the movie is from the book. I would estimate that approximately half of the movie takes place in contemporary Shanghai - as in high-rise office buildings, board meetings, night clubs with pulsing lights and throbbing bass. If you've read the book (or are about to), you should know that the entire book takes place in rural 19th century China and follows the lives of two girls, Snow Flower and Lily through their girlhood, marriages and family life. The book is lush with cultural detail and the tradition of foot binding plays a major role in the story. If I remember correctly, the movie had exactly one scene involving foot binding.
Sadly, these were not the movie's only faults. I will sum it up by simply saying: Read the book; skip the movie.
There have been many good books that have been made into equally good movies. Here are a few I would recommend:
Never Let Me Go (novel by Kazuo Ishiguro)
Memoirs of a Geisha (novel by Arthur Golden)
To Kill a Mockingbird (novel by Harper Lee)
True Grit 2011 (novel by Charles Portis)