‘Crazy Rich Asians’ opens with a Napoleon Hill quote:
“Let China sleep, for when she wakes the world will shake.”
True to Hill’s words, we were shaken by the sheer amount of wealth on display.
Directed by Jon M. Chu, the movie lives up to it’s title. From the bachelor’s and bachelorette’s parties to the wedding scene, the luxury cars and fireworks display it was an ostentatious show of wealth. In the end, ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ turned out to be a great tourism campaign for Singapore and the “awakened Asia”.
The thought of an almost all-Asian cast starring in a romantic comedy was the first selling point of ‘Crazy Rich Asians’. Prior to the release of this movie, when we thought of Asian movies, we thought of martial arts, Shaolin temples and Geishas. Thanks to ‘Crazy Rich Asians’, our perspectives about Asians have been changed forever.
In the first scene, it’s the year 1995. Eleanor Young (Michelle Yeoh) and her children arrive a London hotel is the rain but she’s told there are no rooms. The snotty receptionist says “… May I suggest you try China town?” only to learn a few minutes later that the Youngs are the new owners of the hotel. And when in retaliation Eleanor said, “... the floor is a bit wet, you should get a mop…,” you know you’re in for a roller coaster ride.
‘Crazy Rich Asians’ is a romantic comedy based on the 2013 book of the same title. It follows the story of Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and Nick Young (Henry Golding). They travel to Singapore to attend Nick’s friend’s wedding, Colin (Chris Pang). And Rachel suddenly realises that her boyfriend is rich. She has to contend with Nick’s disapproving mother and envious women who have eyes for Singapore’s most eligible bachelor.
The plot begins to unfold when Nick and Rachel are spotted in a restaurant in New York. Like a wildfire, word spreads on social media that Nick has a girlfriend until the news gets to Nick’s mother, Eleanor Young, where she’s having Bible study with her friends. Those gossip scenes were aesthetically pleasing.
The big reveal happens when Rachel realises that she and Nick are flying first class to Singapore. Nick tells her that he’s “comfortable” but she is still clueless about how wealthy his family is.
In Singapore Rachel meets Nick’s family and friends. They label her a “gold digging bitch”. Eleanor will stop at nothing to end Rachel and Nick’s relationship. But Rachel’s Singaporean college friend, Goh Peik Lin (Nora Lum aka Akwafina – also Constance in Oceans 8) convinces her to stay.
Amid all the fun and laughter, there were serious takeaways. For one, it was interesting to learn that not all Chinese are Buddhists, Singaporean Christians exist!
The cultural specificity was another interesting note. While Rachel and her mum, Kerry Chu (Tan Khang Hua) pick out a dress for Rachel’s first meeting with Nick’s family, Kerry wants her American-Chinese daughter to make a good first impression. And so she opts for a red dress, the colour of fortune. She warns Rachel that the white and blue dress is a bad choice because they are Chinese funeral colours.
It is also always a delight to see a movie which portrays self-aware women with self-love. Astrid says to her soon to be ex-husband that he can keep the apartment. She would move to one of her 14 other apartments. And she adds, “.. it’s not my job to make you feel like a man… you can’t feel like something you’re not.”
‘Crazy Rich Asians’ is based on the classic romcom plot. But it is a modern fairy-tale that stands out from the pack for the dazzling production values. Amarinta and Colin’s wedding was a stunning set piece. Her walk into the church was as magical as that rendition of Elvis Presley’s ‘Can’t help falling in love with you’. We were left in awe. Again, we experience amazing camerawork in the concluding scene where Nick and Rachel party with friends at the Marina Bay Sands.
The movie is not flawless though. Nick describes his cousin Astrid Leong (Gemma Chan) as “having a big heart” but the portrayal of her “big heart” was rather ridiculous. As Nick speaks, the camera pans to Astrid on her way to a private jewelry showcase. She stoops to say hello to a little girl, caresses the girl’s doll and moves on. Really? The scene were Rachel and Eleanor are first introduced is another let down. Eleanor is in the kitchen inspecting the meals to be served at the party. She’s unimpressed with Rachel’s background as we are unimpressed with the size of the kitchen. That kitchen was not fitting for the villa. More so, Nick’s childhood bedroom wasn’t nearly as luxurious at the one Rachel stayed in at the Goh mansion.
It also surprising that Nick never got his dad’s approval to marry Rachel. One would have thought it necessary as he had insinuated that his relationship with Rachel could mean loosing his inheritance; or do we just assume that in Asia, the matriarch has the final say?
After all said, one thing is certain, we will never look at Asians that same way again. And it’s about time we gave them the respect they deserve.
‘Crazy Rich Asians’ is showing in Nigerian cinemas.
Directed by: Jon M. Chu
Cast includes; Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Gemma Chan, Khang Hua, Nora Lum, Ken Jeong