In the coming weeks, Crazy Rich Asians will hit cinemas worldwide and make history as the first Hollywood production in decades featuring an all-Asian cast.
The movie is based on Kevin Kwan's bestselling novel of the same title and follows the story of Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), a university professor who finds out her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding) is the heir to one of Singapore's wealthiest families.
And not just the kind of wealthy that her friend Peik Lin Goh (Awkwafina) is with her noveau-riche family's flashy cars and Trump-esque taste in golden decor, but rather the kind of rich that is a product of centuries of growing wealth; the kind that borders unattainable.
Set in Singapore where both new and old money overlap, the film shows us who's who and what differences there are between the two. It allows the audience a peek into both worlds to show off the extent of opulence and excess.
Being in a different part of the world, literally and figuratively, makes it difficult enough for Rachel to navigate her way around, and it doesn't help that everyone around her including Nick's mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) thinks she's an outsider and disapproves of their relationship. PS. Yeoh's polar performance is perfect as the intended "villain".
Here's the trailer:
In what some might call the Singapore Tourism Board's most expensive promotional video, Crazy Rich Asians shows off landmarks like Marina Bay Sands and the Gardens by the Bay. Also correct me if I'm wrong but I'm pretty sure parts of Penang and Kuala Lumpur were featured too. It's refreshing to see more of the places that are rarely on the big screen for longer than just an establishing shot.
It throws in a few alamaks along with jokes and other references that sound and feel familiar. But it definitely glazes over any real issues deeply ingrained in Asian culture like sexism, and ethnic discrimination. I mean, Rachel does experience both issues in the movie but everything is kind of played off like we should all be okay with it happening. Wait, maybe this is truer to life than I thought?
Thanks mostly to the hilarious lines delivered by Awkwafina's Peik Lin, Rachel's Fairy God Friend and Nick's snarky cousin Oliver (Nico Santos) Crazy Rich Asians is funny where it needs to be, and then some. It's a romantic comedy at best and a guilt-free, all-around enjoyable time.
There's just enough crazy and just enough rich, and definitely effort put into showing different aspects of Asian culture throughout the movie to trigger just the right amount of culture shock to those uninitiated in customs in East Asia and the lifestyles of the wealthy. Could more have been done to accurately portray the crazy lives of the ultra rich? Yes, definitely. But perhaps we'll leave it to another production with a a bigger budget.
But really this isn't about what I did and didn't like. This is about something bigger than that and bigger than the movie itself.
For the first time since before I was born, an all Asian cast will show the world that we are capable of more than just our stereotypical roles as math-loving nerds or as the trusty sidekicks, and that we're capable of telling a story that isn't focused on or carried by martial arts.
More than that, Crazy Rich Asians will show the world that we deserve to be the leading men and women in more Hollywood productions, that we deserve the platforms that will enable us to tell our stories of love, discovery, identity and so much more. It will show the world that we deserve so much better than the whitewashed versions of our people and stories. Looking at you Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell, Tilda Swinton in Doctor Strange, Nat Wolff + the rest of the main cast in Death Note, and yes you too Katharine Hepburn in Dragon Seed, and you Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany's. And let's not forget these guys.
To all the bananas ("yellow on the outside, white on the inside") of the world like myself, if you've ever felt unrepresented or misrepresented on the big screen, go out and watch Crazy Rich Asians when it comes out. Hopefully it will have even one character you can look at and think "that is so me!" without having to follow up with "but I'm like, the Asian version."
With all that being said, there will still be people who feel they do not and will not identify with the characters in Crazy Rich Asians, and that's OK but with it we are one step closer to having more of chance at being represented. It is one step closer to more roles for Asian actors in mainstream film and television. At the very least we are one step closer in the right direction.
Crazy Rich Asians premieres on Aug 22 in the Philippines, Aug 23 in Hong Kong, and Aug 30 in Australia