Crazy Rich Asians [movie reaction]

Crazy Rich Asians (2018) is a movie based on a best-selling book of the same title by Kevin Kwan. I loved the book, it's an entertaining read. My brother read it and highly recommended it, and soon me and my mom read the book and also became fans. The story is about American-born Rachel Chu, an Economics professor. Her boyfriend Nick Young invites her to go to Singapore to attend the wedding of his best friend. Little did Rachel know that Nick is actually one of the most sought-after bachelors in Singapore, his family being one of the richest people there. Rachel must go through mean girls going after Nick, the mean judgement of high society, and eventually - Nick's family, and especially his mother.

I like that this book is not just romanticizing the 'crazy rich life' or the super-rich in Asia. It's a satire and parody of this kind of life, and it's interesting that the author himself was part of these people. Nick's family is an interesting mix of people and looks like a typical Asian family, though of course, they are different - they're crazy rich. The story highlights the differences between the Asians who grew up in a Western perspective and those who are more traditional. The story shows that these two perspectives also have their distinct differences, advantages, and disadvantages.

The story in the book doesn't only revolve around the love story between Nick and Rachel, but various subplots and a myriad of interesting characters. There's Nick's cousin Astrid, who is a fashion icon but struggles with her family and her suspicion of her husband's infidelity. Nick's mother Eleanor, and even Rachel's mother, each has their own stories. Nick's family has an interesting history, but Rachel also has her own family secrets she wasn't even aware of! The book shows an excellent spectrum of characters from the crazy rich, newly rich, old rich, social climbers, and regular people. We see the good, the bad, and the ugly side of the super-rich. The book was a best-selling hit and soon news hit that it will be adapted to a movie and of course, I was excited.

There was so much hype for the movie, more so in the Philippines because it stars Kris Aquino and another Fil-Am Actor, Nick Santos. When I saw the casting of Constance Wu and Henry Golding as the main actors and I thought that they would look great for the part of Rachel and Nick. I actually went to the first screening the first day it opened, I was that excited. I really didn't want the movie to fail, and I'm glad my expectations were exceeded!

In my opinion, there's no other actor more apt to play Nick Young than Henry Golding. Nick in the book is chill, laid-back, yet also a gentleman, which is like Henry's aura. He was the perfect Nick for me. Constance Wu also got Rachel just right, someone down-to-earth, yet also has inner strength. Awkwafina plays Peik Lin, Rachel's nouveau-riche college friend. Awkwafina is hilarious here, and she's the comedic relief in the movie but also plays a very good friend to Rachel's dark times. Nick Santos is Oliver, Nick's cousin, the self-proclaimed'rainbow sheep' of the family. Michelle Yeoh stars shines as Eleanor, Nick's doting mother. I love that she played Eleanor not as a stereotypical controlling, tiger mother, but a complicated character that the viewer can also sympathize with. For her, Rachel will 'never be enough' for Nick and his family, and the conflict between her and Rachel is central in the movie.

Overall the casting was excellent but I still think that the perfect actress for the role of Astrid should have been our very own Heart Evangelista! There are rumors that she actually auditioned for the role. Gemma Chan was great and portrayed Astrid's grace and poise well. Though if you see Heart in this video of Harpers' Bazaar wearing high-end couture clothing, clothes just have a new life on her and I think Gemma lacked that sort of magic. I also think Heart would be great at acting the estranged wife with a strained marriage.

Henry and Constance had good chemistry on screen, and Nick Santos (Oliver) was great for his role as well. There was so much hype because of Kris Aquino's cameo, and Kris herself said that she didn't promote the movie in her social media that much because her role was so short, people might bash her for overly promoting it! Anyway, Kris played a 'Malay Princess' Intan, and her cameo was brief but memorable in the wedding of Colin and Amarinta. She's the unapproachable princess who goes out of her way to be left alone, and Rachel breaks the ice between her to the astonishment of Eleanor and other nosy relatives.

Here are some interesting tidbits that I remember from the book that wasn't included in the movie (there might be spoilers here):

  • In the book, Astrid's husband actually staged everything about having an affair. He did it so Astrid can have a reason to separate from him.
  • There's a character they didn't show, Astrid's ex Charlie. In her problematic marriage, he's there to be a friend for Astrid. But what's interesting here is how it showed how Astrid became the rich fashion icon she is, when she wasn't always like that growing up.
  • There was this funny part in the book about one of the mean girls who bully Rachel. The grandfather of the family is in a coma and they are just waiting for him to die so they can get his wealth, but he ends up waking up after so many years and revokes his wealth from his own family!
  • The story of the Young family's rise to wealth is in the book and it's a great story of hard work and inspiration.
  • Nick's dad wasn't featured in the movie, but he's more chill compared to his wife and doesn't have any problems with Rachel at all. I imagine him as looking like Lucio Tan.

But there are also scenes in the movie not included in the book, like the climactic scene of mahjong between Rachel and Eleanor. I  don't understand the game at all and this article from Vox might be helpful: "The symbolism of Crazy Rich Asians’ pivotal mahjong scene, explained" by Jeff Yang.

The movie focused on Nick and Rachel and didn't show most of the subplots in the book. But I actually like it that way, since all those little side-stories won't fit in a 2-hour long movie anyway.
That last scene is really one of the best scenes I've seen in movies lately. Even if I'm not a big fan of romance, I admit that I sorta cried during the Colin/Amarinta wedding scenes and the proposal scenes in the movie.

After some startling and surprising revelations about her own heritage from Eleanor, Rachel went into semi-depression. It may be a distressing topic, but it's a very sympathetic portrayal of Rachel's sad moments.

The book has a sequel, Rich People Problems, and there are also rumors that a movie sequel is in the works. The movie was such a big hit. It's the same Cinderella story we all love, but Rachel is far from the damsel in distress. We've seen her down, depressed, and doubting herself, but emerges triumphant and finally recognizes her true worth (which loads of money can never buy). It's a love story, a family story, a funny story that's also dramatic, a truly Asian story.

The movie is actually more personal for me than I thought. I lived in  Taiwan for a month prior to watching the movie and knew more about Asian/Chinese culture more intimately. The movie also showed the tension between Western and Asian culture and even the clash between Asians themselves! These conflicts were portrayed really well. I have also experienced this first-hand by living in a multi-cultural environment even for a short period of time.

Crazy Rich Asians as a movie, is a historical moment in history. I'm glad that I got to watch it, and I think it's worth seeing all over again.

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