After getting huge hype in America where it opened last week, CRAZY RICH ASIANS has now landed on our shores. Based on the highly successful 2013 book of the same name by Singaporean-American Kevin Kwan (who, as of yesterday, is a wanted man in Singapore for dodging compulsory military service), CRAZY RICH ASIANS tells the story of Singaporean Nick Young (TV host Henry Golding) who, according to the film’s synopsis, is a history professor at NYU, and Chinese-American Rachel Chu (Constance Wu, TV’s FRESH OFF THE BOAT), who is an economics professor at the same university. They’ve been dating for about a year and Nick decides to invite Rachel to fly over to Singapore to meet his family and attend his best friend’s wedding where he will be the Best Man. Now Nick sort of neglected to tell Rachel that he’s the only son of the island-state’s wealthiest family but she finds out soon enough as the daggers are already drawn even before their plane touches down at Changi Airport. Nick’s mother (Michelle Yeoh, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON; TOMORROW NEVER DIES) is cordial but icy, as she thinks that Rachel isn’t good enough for her son. The bride-to-be’s friends are completely catty, as they are no doubt jealous that Rachel has what they want. But Rachel does have a few people there who are in her corner including her old classmate, Peik Lin (Awkwafina, OCEAN’S 8), and Nick’s cousins Astrid (British-Chinese actress Gemma Chan, who will be seen in next year’s CAPTAIN MARVEL) and Oliver (Filipino-American actor Nico Santos). Will this trip break Nick and Rachel up or will it bring them closer together? If you’ve ever seen a romcom, you know the answer.
The film is directed by Jon M. Chu, whose biggest claim to fame so far has been directing a 3-D concert film of Justin Bieber. He’s done a great job here although many armchair critics all over the world have taken him to task over the film’s “yellowfacing”, with many of the actors being labelled as “not Chinese…” or “not Asian enough”. One such charge has been leveled at Golding who is half-British, half-Malaysian. Give me a break! He’s acting a part, FGS, and he’s spent half of his life out here. These moaners need to step away from their social media accounts and get a life. I will agree that the film is rather monoethnic in its casting of minor characters and extras, and they could have included a few Indian, Malay and Caucasian actors which would be reflective of Singapore’s multi-ethnic society, but that’s a very tiny nit to pick.
The big winners here are not the Asian actors in Hollywood who now think there will be plenty of movie roles for them. I don’t think much will change when the hype dies down. Rather, it’s the folks at Singapore Tourism Board who must be rubbing their hands in glee at how well their city is portrayed here. We here know how modern and immaculate the city is. Now the rest of the world does too, and you can be sure that many vacation plans will be changed to include a visit there. The scene at the hawker centre is basically an advertisement for the place and it’s a darn good one too.
Awkwafina, Santos and Malaysian-Chinese standup comedian Ronny Chieng (THE DAILY SHOW) are the film’s bright spots with their over-the-top performances. Golding is fine as Nick but he’s not the most dynamic actor to watch on the big screen. His style is better suited for infotainment television. Wu is a much better actor.
Certainly go see CRAZY RICH ASIANS. It’s not the deepest story you’re going to see on the big screen this season but it is fun with all its bitchiness, camp and bling. And if you like it, you’ll be happy to know that a sequel is already in the works.
Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live in RTHK Radio 4’s studio on Thursday, August 23rd at 8:30 am HK time!
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