Finally, The Asian Rom-Com Success Story
The Rockwell Power Plant was the site for the first public screening of Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians movie adaptation; and by all accounts, it was a successful transition. Eager to show their support for the film were the likes of Doris Magsaysay-Ho (who’s a good friend of Kevin), Butch and Ollie Campos, Cedie L. Vargas, Chris and Nanette Po, Marielle S. Po, and Monique B. Gonzalez. Marie Lozano, Issa Litton, Baby Yulo, Chris and Alicia Sy, Megan Young with Mikael Daez were also at the Aperitif cocktails that Warner Bros. Pictures laid out for the lucky invited.
photos by Philip Cu-Unjieng
And the film’s Director, Jon M. Chu can be applauded for coming up with a very self-aware adaptation, that smartly used humour to punctuate a lot of scenes. In a style reminiscent of how Waititi in Thor: Ragnarok would employ humor to rise above the conventional superhero tropes, Chu employs that knowing wink and deflating of the serious, dramatic moments to keep the rom-com fresh and buoyant. It’s the first hour that truly charms and sets the tone, as we follow Rachel (Constance Wu) and Nick (Henry Golding) from New York to Singapore.
Wu excels in this film, making the most of this starring role. Awkwafina and Nico Santos are the bona fide scene-stealers and when you add Ken Cheong to the mix, you’re guaranteed of some priceless comedic moments. Look out for Awkwafina and Nico jamming together in the scene where they dress up Rachel for the wedding. And for high drama, the mahjong scene of Rachel and Nick’s mother (Michelle Yeoh) will also have you sending kudos to Director Chu.
It’s a Rom-Com that’s smartly executed, and we love how it’s a Hollywood film with an Asian cast. That it racked up $34 million on its first five days of business in the USA is encouraging indeed, topping the August 17-19 weekend. But I do have to say that it is a Rom-Com, not THE film about Asia or the Asian experience.
To equate it to films like Black Panther is I think a disservice to the film and the intent of its producers. Black Panther was a superhero film, and full of heroic action, Wakanda against forces of evil from within and without; while Crazy Rich Asians is about spoiled super-rich Singapore families who will treat a Chinese-American female Economics professor as an outsider and beneath their privileged class. We’re not even given a glimpse of how these super rich families accrued so much wealth, the struggle it took.
It is Cinderella meets the Lifestyle of the rich and famous but set in Singapore—which also gets a travelogue treatment. It’s the classic fish out of water story, and naturally, we root for the fish. In fact, if you think about it, the ones mean to Rachel are Asians themselves.
So I’m happy the film is doing brisk business in the States, and I’m sure it’ll do great when it opens here in Asia. For Asians working in Hollywood, we can be hopeful of it opening the door that much wider; but please don’t bestow the film with a gravitas it just doesn’t carry. It’s a well made, light-hearted romp; a nicely executed transition of entertaining novel to film.
Lead images from @constancewu