Celebrating the Asian Spirit: A High Five Review of “Crazy Rich Asians”

by Matthew Escosia
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By: Patricia Yap

 

In 2013, Singaporean-American novelist Kevin Kwan wrote what would be an international best-selling novel turned major motion picture known as “Crazy Rich Asians”. Two years later, arguably the most popular streaming platform to date, Netflix, decided to bring the film to every household this October.

With this, we present to you SEA Wave’s High Five movie review of Crazy Rich Asians!

 

Relatable despite the setting

Not everyone has unknowingly fallen for the heir of the biggest multinational corporation in Singapore, became their significant other, was swept off to meet said heir’s family, and looked down upon and rejected, I’m sure. However, one thing’s for certain. We’ve all fallen in love with someone yet their family disapproves of us. Although the world of Crazy Rich Asians is set in glitz and glamour, money showers, USD 200 million estates, and bachelorette parties on private islands, the story is quite simple and relatable.

Whether it’s because of social status, economic class, and others, Crazy Rich Asians were able to accurately show what it’s like being the outsider or the “other” of the family of their significant other. The constant interactions and confrontation between Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and Eleanor Young (Michelle Yeoh), the mother of Rachel’s boyfriend Nick Young, (Henry Golding) was so well delivered that one cannot deny the true to life tension a mother feels and expresses for their child’s “undeserving” lover, and how the lover reacts physically and emotionally to such situations.

Not only does this go for Nick’s mother, but Rachel was also belittled, shamed, and intimidated by Nick’s family members, distant relatives, and “friends”. So despite the far offsetting that most of us could never experience, many of us can identify ourselves and feel represented in Crazy Rich Asians and in Rachel’s character.

 

An all Asian and Asian-American cast

Crazy Rich Asians

Hollywood is not particularly recognized as a very cast diverse industry—we all know that by now. So, to have a Hollywood film that doesn’t cast aside Asians as supporting characters or even non-existent is a big, big congratulatory step. From the main cast to the supporting characters, everyone is Asian or Asian-American; everyone is also light-skinned.

Crazy Rich Asians, although regarded as a milestone in Asian representation still shies away from showing brown Asians as equally present. Even their roles are limited to the lower class or informal sector as maids. Though there were brown Asians shown in the film, many were just placed in the background, silent, and unmoving. In addition to this, even though the setting was in Singapore, barely any Indian or Malay Singaporeans were shown in the film.

 

Wealth and other forms of power

Crazy Rich Asians

Money plays a huge role in the film, no doubt. The social class, wealth, and opulence are all evident in the film but other forms of power aren’t as explicit, at least not until the end. There were many ways in which wealth was used to depict different forms of power, and that was very clever and appealing. It shows that money isn’t only used for “evil” as most of these films go.

For Eleanor, she uses wealth as a power to fend off others and shield herself. From the very beginning of the film, the then younger Eleanor was discriminated against by the American hotel concierge and manager until she was seen with power and money. On the other hand, Astrid (Gemma Chan), Nick’s famed cousin, used her wealth, in the end, to empower herself and leave her cheating husband who she’s tried to safeguard from discrimination as a “commoner”.

But what about the other form of power? Well, that’s love and support. No questions here, but Rachel is the one with the most power in this field. Rachel’s mom, her best friend Peik Link (Awkwafina), Astrid, her new friend Oliver and Nick are just some of the supporting strengths she used to overcome the trials thrown her way—something money can’t buy.

 

A little crazier

Crazy Rich Asians

The movie is aptly titled Crazy Rich Asians after all, so why couldn’t there have been more “crazy”? There are indeed a lot of extravagant and jaw-dropping scenes that show the characters’ ludicrous wealth, but audiences could have gotten more “bite” or however you want to call it from the antagonists. Yes, some of Nick’s relatives, especially his mother, weren’t kind to Rachel by any means but most of the time they were just belittling and looking down on her.

More conniving, heart-stopping, and excess use of money could have been executed to bring more drama to the table and emphasize the power money can do. The most far gone the characters went to is leaving the profane message and gutted fish on Rachel’s hotel bed and Eleanor’s last-minute investigation on her mother.

But I digress, there are people who are probably alright with the amount of sabotage that’s been done to separate Rachel and Nick and some might just want a little more. Either way, maybe there’s a reason why the film didn’t show a whole lot of crazy sabotage to separate Rachel and Nick in the first place. This thought is up to you.

 

A touch on flaws and insecurities

Similar to what was said on the roles of wealth and power, Crazy Rich Asians also shows a lot of vulnerability. Audiences would expect that the only vulnerable character here would be Rachel because of her lack of monied pedigree or social status as compared to LITERALLY everyone in the film. It was surprising, and refreshing, that she wasn’t the only one.

Despite the cash, many characters had their flaws and wore their heart and insecurities on their sleeves. The ice-cold Eleanor holds so much power and esteem, no one would think she had any insecurities. But as the film progressed, she reveals how she never felt she was enough to even after becoming the woman that she is. Despite overpowering Rachel in the investigation confrontation scene, audiences can still see Eleanor’s insecurity of not being her mother-in-law’s (Lisa Lu) first choice for her child’s bride.

Take a look at Nick as well, his best friend Colin (Chris Pang) even said “You are Nick Young. You are untouchable”. The untouchable Nick Young apparently has flaws and fears despite his all too perfect demeanor when it comes to expressing himself to his family.

 

The Verdict

Without a doubt, Crazy Rich Asians is able to hit all three hallmarks of its name. It is crazy, it is rich, and it is Asian. The lavish lifestyle and excessive scenes of parties and shenanigans will make audiences awe and laugh while the show of status and wealth will leave viewers a mix of all sorts of emotions. Although some of these aspects, especially the “Asian-ess” of the film could use a little more representation, for a Hollywood film, this is a huge leap in an attempt at Asian visibility. Though seemingly a complicated story with a fantastical modern setting, Crazy Rich Asians is quite simple and hits closer to home on so many personal levels such as love, relationship, family, culture, and insecurities.

 

Given this, SEA Wave gives Crazy Rich Asians a 4 out of 5 waves.

It’s been two years since this film has seen the big screen, and now it’s your turn to watch it for yourself. Let us know what you think about Crazy Rich Asians in the comments below!

 

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