Crazy Rich Asians: Kevin Kwan adaptation provides Hollywood with a blockbuster moment for representation on the screen


August 25, 2018 05:07:21

In the opening series of John Chu's highly anticipated screen adaptation of Kevin Kwan's bestseller, Crazy Rich Asians, we find our heroine, a spirited academic named Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), in a fancy dinner, sharing a dessert with her boring, but good-hearted looking for boyfriend, Nick Young (Henry Golding).

Rachel does not seem aware of it, but Nick has an aura of wealth. They are being watched on the other side of the room by a smartly dressed young Asian woman who, after sneakily clicking on her phone, starts a series of instant messages tumbling all over the world and into a waterfall of brightly colored multilingual screen. falls down. shock. In a series that nods to the settings of the split screen of the sixties romantic capers in his design, the dazzling surface of the thin world of Nick is established.

Nick invites Rachel to the wedding of his partner in Singapore. Rachel, who has never visited an Asian country and would like to experience a region that is part of her mythology, decides to go. But she soon discovers that Nick belongs to one of the old Peranakan families in Singapore and is crazy. Alamak!

With money comes drama and there are tests in the store. Nick's mother Eleanor, played with heartbreaking restraint by Michelle Yeoh, does not think that an American girl will have the mind to steer the next generation of the Young Empire. There is a minefield of unknown social tricks to navigate, and Nick's jealous ex, initially caring, is willing to go to horrible lengths to deter Rachel.

It is a familiar set-up for a cross-class romance, but screenwriters Adele Lim and Peter Chiarelli give the conventions of the genre nuance by immersing themselves in the differences between the Sino-American identity of Rachel and Nick & # 39; s Chinese -Singaporese roots and by ultimately the double identity of Rachel to make a strength.

This is done nicely in the scene in which Rachel meets Eleanor for the first time. In the midst of a sumptuous party – culminating in an amazing highlight, the unfolding of a rare flowering night flower from South America – the meeting takes place in the vibrant kitchen of Nick's family country house. While waiters prepare trays of Nyonya sweets – Klepon! Kuih Lapis! Seri Muka! – Nick introduces Rachel to Eleanor in the hope of her approval.

But the cultural differences between the two women quickly become clear. Rachel tries to impress, eager to talk about her academic achievements and independence, not realizing that Eleanor, also academically successful, chose to give up her career as a responsibility to her family. "Striving for your passion," answers Eleanor, "How American."

The way in which the film explores the intermediate position that Rachel and many of the other young Diaspora Asians occupy in the film – Asian-American, Anglo-Asian, Asian-Australian – is unique.

There has been some criticism about the way the film focuses on a certain class of wealthy Singaporeans; comments have also been made about the fact that many Chinese films are full of Chinese actors.

But this film is not really about Singapore (the film version of the city state is a fantasy world) or Chinese; it's about how it feels to be a Western person of Asian descent – and there's a huge audience of people who want to see that explored in a Hollywood production.

When Nick and Rachel arrive in Singapore for the first time, there is a series that plays as an ad for a food-travel show, but which accurately captures the strangeness of arrival at a place where you think you might belong, only to make it perfectly and find it magically strange.

It is exciting to see a film with characters who look Asian, but have grown up in Western countries, who speak English with indigenous English accents, and whose pleasure and cultural touchstone come from their experience as global citizens.

In an intimate scene between Nick and his friend Colin (played by the Australian actor Chris Pang), Colin watches rugby on his iPad as they float in an idyllic bay. Trained at British boarding schools, the hobbies and passions of the boys are as British as Singaporean, and the film respects the authenticity of their chaotic cultural makeup.

The narrative circle of Rachel suggests that holding a mix of cultures in you is something that you can make wiser. At the climax of the film no cultural attitude wins. Rachel reaches her romantic comedy goal by letting the man get hooked by combining her western independence with Chinese collectivist values ​​- trusting that she can be whole without Nick, while showing she is capable of sacrificing her own desires for the well-being of those she loves.

Rachel is a quietly subversive, romantic-comic heroine. Nick does not save her and it's her actions, not his, who eventually led to a union supported by Eleanor.

I found it important to see that an Asian-American woman leads a conventionally structured Hollywood-rom com and I am sure that this will be important for many young Asian-Western women.

With a series of funny, colorful (and sometimes destructive) decor pieces – shout out until the moment Ken Jeong shatters all the ridiculous accents he had to perform in his career – and a wedding that must be seen to be believed, Crazy Rich Asians is really a nice cinematic experience. There are great performances about the cast and the lavish production design and the costumes are both glamorous and exaggerated over the top.

If you are Asian-Australian, you can watch this film – you will cry (I was crying literally) with relief when you see complex, sometimes unpleasant Asian characters from Asia who look like you. If you are not an Asian-Australian? Go see it anyway, maybe you just have a good time.

Crazy Rich Asians screen nationally from 30 August; previews in selected cinemas from 24 to 26 Aug.


Arts and Entertainment,

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a comical film,

romance movies,


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United States

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