Crazy Rich Asians (2018) starring Constance Wu, Henry Golding, & Michelle Yeoh

NOTE: This post contains SPOILERS for the film (now playing widely in theaters).

…to see the clash between Asian culture and Asian-American culture on the screen makes me feel like I am finally being seen and heard. – @tinidornkutsara

I’d expected it to be meaningful, fun, joyful, but I hadn’t at all expected what amounted to a lifetime of sorrow & longing, an onslaught of feelings I hadn’t even known I was suppressing. – @rokwan

No othering or tokenization. For once, I felt we were the default. Must be how white people feel most of the time. Beauty, romance, fantasies, & laughs made for us. Wow. More please! – @jessicaunlee

A triumph for representation? Maybe for Asian-Americans but certainly not for #Singapore #CrazyRichAsiansMovie -Nicholas Yong

We can love, support AND criticize something at the same time. #CrazyRichAsians is ground-breaking for representation in Hollywood. FACT.  “Asians” does not mean ALL Asians. FACT. The movie does not cover the often oppressed brown & non-Chinese people of Singapore. FACT. – @jennyyangtv

These are some tweets from young Asian-Americans that were featured in an article on the importance of Crazy Rich Asians. 25 years after The Joy Luck Club, there is a (mainstream) Hollywood rom com w/ an all-Asian cast. Fans of indies (like myself) have also noted that Better Luck Tomorrow and The Namesake (which is focused on an Indian- American family) were predominantly Asian-American. This movie (based on the book by Kevin Kwan) is a hit w/ audiences and critics; we know that NO color means more in Hollywood than green! 

I’m so Chinese. I’m an econ professor that’s lactose intolerant. -Rachel comments 

NYU Econ professor, Rachel Chu (Constance Wu from Fresh Off the Boat), experiences culture shock (and a LOT more) when she travels w/ her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding- a British TV presenter in his debut role) to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. We can see that Nick is crazy about her; they share a love of food. Rachel discovers that Nick (who she’s been dating for 1 yr) is part of the elite of his country and heir to an empire. (In MANY Asian cultures, bringing someone to a family, or close friend’s, wedding is a huge deal.) When they reach JFK Airport, someone quickly takes their luggage, then they’re led to a spacious first class cabin on their plane. Nick’s old friends, Colin (Chris Pang) and fiancée Araminta (Sonaya Mizuno from Ex Machina), pick them up at the airport and take the couple to an outdoor food market. FYI: Food is a big part of this movie!

Let me get this straight. You both went to the same school. Yet someone came back with a degree that’s useful, and the other one came back as Asian Ellen. -Mr. Goh laments

Before Rachel meets the Youngs, she reunites w/ college roommie, Peik Lin Goh (Nora Lum, AKA Awkwafina- actress/rapper from Queens). Peik Lin sports short blond-dyed hair, dresses colorfully, and speaks like Miley Cyrus meets hip hop (as Awkawfina described it). The choice to use the black accent, or African-American vernacular (AAV), was NOT funny to everyone (as I observed from my audience- young and diverse). Peik Lin’s family lives in a huge house decorated to resemble The Palace at Versaille and Trump’s golden bathroom (LOL)! Her family includes eccentric/American-educated dad (Ken Jeong of Dr. Ken/guest star on Fresh Off the Boat).

God forbid we lose the ancient Chinese tradition of guilting your children. -Astrid comments (during the dumpling making scene)

At the welcome back party for Nick, his elegant/graceful mother, Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), meets Rachel and sizes her up quickly. She politely disapproves of her son’s choice; Eleanor considers Americans too independent. Rachel is ethnically Chinese, speaks Mandarin fluently, BUT her heart and mind are American (as her mom pointed out). Nick’s grandma (who raised him until he was sent to a British boarding school) and his favorite cousin, Astrid (British actress Gemma Young), think differently. Astrid even shares concerns re: her marriage to Rachel at Araminta’s bachelorette weekend. The other women who grew up w/ Nick, incl. his ex, shun or try to scare away Rachel, seeing her as NOT good enough. 

Nick’s obnoxious/hard-partying cousin, Bernard (Jimmy O. Yang of Silicon Valley), flies the men out (in helicopters) to international waters. He has a surprise for Colin- the bachelor party will be on a huge cargo ship! (One reviewer considered this to be the MOST unrealistic element of the film.) When they get on board, there are beauty pageant contestants, dancing, music, bazookas, and LOTS of booze. After some time, and hearing rude comments re: his relationship from other cousins, incl. finance bro Eddie (Ronny Chieng of The Daily Show), Nick and Colin escape, thanks to Colin’s pilot’s license). They end up on a little/secluded island where Nick shows Colin the engagement ring he has picked out for Rachel. He plans to propose soon, BUT doesn’t want to draw attention away from the wedding. Colin is happy for Nick, yet also concerned; Rachel is NOT used to this type of life. (It’s NOT everyday that you get to see handsome, shirtless Asian men talking about their feelings!)

Before the wedding, Peik Lin and another of the Young cousins- Oliver (“the rainbow sheep of the family”)- help Rachel get ready. We see the typical rom com scenes of Rachel getting a facial, picking out a formal dress, etc. Though this film is breaking new ground (w/ regard to cast and setting), it’s also traditional in MANY ways. At the church, everyone looks her way when Rachel enters wearing a chic up-do and diaphanous pale blue gown (by Marchesa). There is no room in the Young family pew (no shocker), so Rachel walks up to the front of the church and sits next to a posh older woman (who is BOTH a princess and pioneer in micro-lending). Nick notices this, pleasantly surprised, and also awed by how beautiful she looks. Though the elders don’t approve of all the greenery, the wedding ceremony is unique and gorgeous. Araminta walks down an aisle (like a ballerina) flowing w/ water wearing stockings w/ gold designs. 

At the reception, Eleanor (w/ grandma by her side), reveals that Rachel will NEVER be a part of their family- she’s a liar. She hired a PI who discovered that Rachel’s father is NOT dead, BUT living in Hong Kong! Nick wonders why Rachel lied, BUT she didn’t know anything about this. She starts crying and runs away from Nick, navigating through a maze-like path (like you’d expect in a fairy tale). At the Goh’s house, Rachel is so heartbroken that she stays in bed for days, not eating or speaking. Nick keeps calling, but Rachel doesn’t speak to him. (It’s so sweet how ALL of the Goh family tries to make her feel better.)

Finally, we see that Rachel has a visitor- her mom, Kerry (Khen Hua Tan)! She consoles her daughter and explains why she hid the truth. Her husband was abusive, so an old schoolmate helped her escape, and they fell in love. Rachel asks why they NEVER went back to see her father; her mom thought it’d be too dangerous. In the US, she started fresh w/ her baby girl; she eventually became a real estate agent. This scene is quite well-acted, well-written, and VERY touching! 

There is a Hokkien phrase ‘kaki lang’. It means: our own kind of people, and you’re not our own kind. -Eleanor explains

Because I’m not rich? Because I didn’t go to a British boarding school, or wasn’t born into a wealthy family? -Rachel asks

You’re a foreigner. American – and all Americans think about is their own happiness. -Eleanor replies

Rachel decides that it’s unfair to Nick to have to choose between her and his family (esp. his mother) in the pivotal mahjong scene. (FYI: This was not in the book, BUT added as a nod to The Joy Luck Club). The 8-bamboo tile Rachel discards to give Eleanor the winning  hand also was a winning tile for Rachel; that is why Eleanor looks shocked when Rachel turns over her hand. As some critics from Slate noted, this film’s third act is even better than its first (rare for a rom com). I think that the relationships between women, incl. their conflicts, are the best things about Crazy Rich Asians.

Yes, it is a romantic comedy – but this has such intriguing social and cultural undercurrents that it tempts even the fairly observant watcher away from taking the “Cinderella” story at its glitzy face value. While the numerous characters had to have their backstories compressed to fit into just two hours, we are given enough great dialogue, effervescent or slightly evil portrayals, and sumptuous visual clues to make the friends and family members in Singapore come alive. -Excerpt from IMDB review

As Rachel and her mom board their plane (coach this time), Nick is also there; he decided to fly home w/ her. What ensues is an (expected) cute rom com scene; Nick sidesteps several people, helps stow away luggage, and… finally pulls out a little black box to propose. Rachel is surprised when the ring he offers her is the the large emerald one worn by Eleanor! This is the feel-good ending you’d expect from such a film, yet w/ an added bonus; Rachel has won BOTH Nick’s heart and the approval of his mother. For Asians (even in today’s modern/individualistic world), this MAY be an especially poignant moment. I’ve known several South Asian American women, who live in the US, who were rejected by (potential) mother-in-laws. The reasons they were rejected ranged from height/looks to having been divorced or raised in a different religion. Their boyfriends/fiances didn’t stand up for them (unlike Nick). 

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3 thoughts on “Crazy Rich Asians (2018) starring Constance Wu, Henry Golding, & Michelle Yeoh

  1. re: building something — I liked the fact that the conflict was about something real, i.e., it wasn’t entirely obvious who was supposed to be the winner.

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  2. Also NOT big on rom coms (unlike MOST of my gal pals), BUT was V interested in seeing this. Some of us went 1st wknd. It’s the kind of movie that has something for everyone, BUT could resonate deeper w/ those who identify as Asian, Asian-American, bi-cultural, or Third Culture. MOST of my audience liked Awkwafina. One of my friends really liked ALL the stuff re: building something (NOT just being individual) that Yeoh & older women were talking about. Will def check out article!

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  3. For some reason the final scene reminded me of the final (subway) scene in the first Crocodile Dundee film. I loved this film and I laughed a lot while feeling mildly guilty about that (I usually don’t enjoy rom coms, but the theater made me an offer I couldn’t refuse, and I was interested in Awkwafina after Ocean’s 8 — she’s the funniest comic actor I’ve seen in a while). I wonder what you think of this? https://onoffscreen.wordpress.com/2018/09/02/crazy-rich-asians-the-startling-revelation-of-homogeneity-in-diversity-and-multiculturalism/#like-530

    Liked by 1 person

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