Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
I feel like CRA is more of an experience than just a film. On the surface of things, it’s a snapshot of a totally different way of life, one I could never comprehend nor have a slice of – but it’s so much more than that. And as a white woman, I will never fully understand what it feels like to watch a mainstream Hollywood movie with a purely Asian cast (without a white character in sight to save the day, no less). From the live-action Ghost in the Shell to the remake of Old Boy (and everything in-between), white-washing is a very real thing and it’s completely unacceptable – so you’re damn right this is important.
Based on the novel of the same name by Kevin Kwan, the film adaptation takes place mainly in Singapore, when the handsome Nick Young (Henry Golding) takes his girlfriend Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) to attend the wedding of his best friend – and to finally meet his family. What Rachel doesn’t know is that her beau is rich – crazy rich – and his family is practically royalty.
But how will Nick’s super traditional mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) take his relationship though? After all, Rachel is more or less a peasant and could never be good enough for her favourite boy. So, despite smarts and a fantastic job, kind Rachel is subjected to a series of humiliations and branded a gold digger by Singapore’s elite – something she is completely unprepared for.
Luckily, she has her old college mate Peik Lin Goh (Awkwafina) on hand for support as well as lovely Astrid (Gemma Chan), who has her own cross to bear in the form of a cheating husband. What follows Rachel’s arrival in Singapore is a luscious battle of wits as she find the inner courage to challenge the behaviour of Eleanor Young, who is hellbent on sabotaging Nick’s relationship, whatever the cost.
I had such a good time with this movie. It’s gorgeous to look like, obviously – all breath-taking location shots and designer wardrobes but it’s sweet too – corny in places – but also genuinely moving when it wants to be. The traditional values of Nick’s family are touching, though the stubborn need to keep everything in check is hard to comprehend – and Eleanor’s disregard for her son’s happiness is frustrating. Will there be a happy ending for our lovers?
I went to see this with my friend Helen who visited Singapore this year and has been to a number of the places featured, including the huge hotel with the pool on the roof. This made it even more special to her – for me it was nice and feel-good. It made me laugh where it wanted me to – Awkwafina is a good comedic actress and very different as Peik Lin to her character in Ocean’s Eight.
It’s also great to see Gemma Chan in such a choice role. I’ve seen her in a few TV bits over the years and I think she’s an angel. She definitely gave me the most feels as nice girl Astrid, who has to hide her extravagances from her rags to riches husband, who cannot deal with her vast wealth. So much so that he has to bang someone else. Her pain is hard to bear but her R-E-S-P-E-C-T moment as the end is very satisfying.
I love the whole cast really, and it’s good to see familiar faces pop up. Michelle Yeoh’s brittle Eleanor is bloody marvellous and her head-to-head with Rachel is very powerful. As for the central romance, it’s fine of course, you’re rooting for them as they’re both so deserving of their happy ending – but it’s standard popcorn love and not the main pull of the film for me.
I would love to live my life in this decadence for just one day. Can you even imagine?