Crazy Rich Asians
"A dazzling film that’s a destination wedding having quirky relatives, gossiping aunties and an important lesson about heritage & individuality."
The film opens with a quote by Napoleon Bonaparte (sounds like born-apart, right?), “Let China sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world” (only if he could’ve witnessed today's ‘Manufactured in China’ world). The prologue of the film has the rain-drenched 'Young' family greeted by a discourteous manager in an elite hotel as a result of their ethnicity. A minute later, Eleanor Young becomes the owner of that hotel. The family’s now drenched with money. At it's very beginning the film announces loud and clear – We Have Arrived.
“This film does for South East Asians what Black Panther did for African Americans. If you hadn’t heard of this film before then you already have an answer to why is this film so important.”
These aren’t typical Asian characters. There are no Chinatown restaurants serving fortune cookies, no Kung Fu warriors and not even the unfortunate Asian guy in the car crash of a “fast” paced film. The film’s protagonists are ‘Americans’, Asian Americans. Rachel, a dynamic economics professor at NYU is a champion in game theory. Her boyfriend Nick is a humble heir to an affluent business family. He plays basketball with the local street folk and finishes desserts from his girlfriend’s plate. Also, there are folks who believe that wearing red is auspicious and love to talk behind backs. The constant struggle between a cosmopolitan Identity and nativity is one of the themes that lie at the film’s core.
“It scores a full GPA, thanks to a scene with vivid imagery depicting the world of social media. A world that runs parallel to our lives but behind our backs. With just a blink, the news of Nick & Rachel’s affair reaches Asia (credit goes to the film's fine editing).”
The real fun begins when this couple heads to the Orient for a friend’s wedding. A whole subcontinent - China, Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore (even the film’s cast members originate from these countries) opens up in front of our eyes. The 'other' half of the film lies at the ‘other' end of the world (in the East). The sprawling, bustling island of Singapore that is Nick’s kingdom, a world that has plush business class flights, airports having movie theatres, parks that could put a city like New York to shame and a lively street food hub brimming with energy. This street food also serves commentary in the form of trivia – “This is the only place where the chefs of street food restaurants receive Michelin stars”.
The entr’acte of Singapore is extravagant and at times turns into a Visit Singapore ad.
Adding to it are the elite real estates, fancy cars, posh parties, celebrities hiding behind closets, wild youngsters, extramarital affairs, clubs of aunties, family politics and drama.
All the actors deliver flawless performances. Gemma Chan puts forward a well-balanced act. Direction and cinematography bring the magic out of a clichéd story. The screenplay, though flawed, is engaging. Awkwafina and Nico Santos are fun to watch.
“When did Michelle Yeoh stopped being the diva we crushed upon and turned into this grounded and balanced mother who is protective of her cultural heritage and gets fondly called as Amma ”
Rachel an American, faces leg pulling, backbiting, planning and plotting. Eleanor considers her an unfit daughter-in-law because she is too passionate about her work(there’s not just a socio-economic divide but also a conflict of ideologies involved) while Eleanor believes in staying and making things work. Some people are jealous while others are welcoming. Nicholas, on the other hand, is in a dilemma and wishes to embrace his individuality away from his maddening family (this is deeply relatable).
The film has multiple weddings - of a guy and a girl, of progressive modernism and heritage, passion and sacrifice, identity and responsibility, stubbornness and talent, selflessness and infidelity and more importantly of Jane Austen’s novels with The fairytale of Cinderella, The rom-com of the 40s with the 21st century's technology and between Karan Johar and Sooraj Barjatya’s cinema.
“The Hindi film problems in the Asian American film” :
- This film gets dramatic, reminding of the Indian television soaps at times. It feels like we have met these characters in a family function from northern India. This gets problematic.
- There are sudden reveals of affairs and pasts, a see-saw of breakups and patch-ups.
- At times it gets too indulgent while portraying a vibrant Singapore.
- Children are used only as plot devices for convenience.
- For a film that is so earnest with its racial representation, it doesn’t have any characters other than the Indian security guards and a racist Englishman.
“The wedding ceremony will give you goals for life with its visuals of lilies, water, fireflies, rich flora and soft background score serenading through (composer Brian Tyler breaks his conventional mould).”
It refines down to simpler moments at the climax, for example, a couple that arrived in business class propose in the economy class while returning back and A Mahjong game between Rachel and Eleanor with its use of blocking techniques.
The final money shot of Marina Bay Sands amidst a razzle-dazzle of fireworks celebrates the fact that within this crazy concoction of conflicts, turmoil, love and acceptance one thing’s for sure – “The Crazy Rich Asians are At The Top of The World”.
– Sarthak Awasthi
“Through the two lenses of my spectacles”
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