Prove your humanity

Will the film rendition of Kevin Kwan’s best-selling novel—Crazy Rich Asians—prove to the world that there’s room for Asian films on the Hollywood scene? What does this film have in store for you? Strap yourself in and prepare to be instantly hurled into the Asian equivalent of the Prince and Me (2004).

Director Jon. M Chu invites us to meet the main couple of his most recent romantic-comedy, Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) and Nick Young (Henry Golding), and to follow their journey as Nick seizes his best friend’s wedding as the perfect opportunity to whisk the love of his life away from her home in New York to finally meet his parents in Singapore.

But Rachel’s short to-do list there quickly goes beyond being Nick’s wedding plus-one and meeting his parents, as she suddenly finds herself diving head-first into the insane world of the ridiculously wealthy. Not only does Rachel stick out like a sore thumb amongst the lavish, other-worldly beings of Singapore’s upper-class society, but she’s instantly scorned for daring to date the richest and most attractive bachelor in Singapore despite her existence as a mere Asian-American with humble roots.

Watch as Rachel lives the craziest Cinderella story seen on screen yet, as she encounters Nick’s disapproving mother, is turned into public enemy number one amongst the wealthy, and strives to do right by both herself and the love of her life.

I can’t speak on behalf of everybody else, but I’d like to admit that Crazy Rich Asians is the very first Hollywood film that I’ve ever seen that is directed by an Asian director, features a completely Asian cast and is filmed in Asia. And like it or not, it’s an incredibly big deal.

Asian representations aside, the film did an excellent job of depicting the family dynamics and disapproval encountered by many of those entering traditionally staunch Asian families. And this experience isn’t strictly reserved to Asian-Americans.  Many people can relate to this concept, especially in this day and age, with the rise of interracial relationships; which is why I think that this film was a great choice for what is essentially Singapore’s first Hollywood film.

With that being said, stripping away the film’s huge redeeming factor of Asian representation, there’s nothing too outstanding about the film—apart from its whopping budget of $41.3 million (AUD).

In terms of the film’s storyline, much like the title suggests, it’s crazy. There’s so much going on in Crazy Rich Asians, and yet, there’s really not much actually there in terms of substance. I understand that a film originally based off of a novel is bound to have drawbacks, due to the madness of trying to condense all of the novel’s events into a feature-length film; but Crazy Rich Asians unfortunately falls into the category of those that compromise substance for inclusion of events.

This film features more elements than most television series’ can even hope to cover in a single season. Don’t believe me? Let’s see if you can handle this: there’s a wedding, a bachelor-turned-fret-party, an island getaway, gold-digger shaming, breaking and entering, death threats, a burial, bullying, back-stabbing, revenge, adultery, wealth shaming(?), two impromptu proposals, a cooking lesson, a make-over (of course), family secret reveals, grand gestures, and very many break-ups. Don’t even get me started on the over-excessive use of ab shots and the incredibly obvious and rather long Singapore tourism promotion mid-film.

There’s so much going on in this film that nothing is really elaborated on and you never really have a chance to truly understand or get to know the two main characters.

While we’re on the subject of Rachel and Nick, what annoys me most is the film’s absolute disregard for reality. Realistically, how did Nick fall in love with Rachel, and she with him, without him ever talking to her about his family, his job or simply the fact that he is Singapore’s richest bachelor? And honestly, if a bunch of Asians can discover this one specific Rachel Wu out of the tens of thousands Rachel Wus found on Facebook, our Rachel Wu most certainly could have completed a simple Google search and single-handedly thrived in the revelation that she’d been sleeping with the richest successor in Singapore: Nick Young.

Criticism aside, despite the overwhelming—yet expected—non-Singaporeans posing as Singaporeans, I’m definitely pleasantly surprised that there were a handful of well-known Singaporean actors who made it onto the big screen. As a Singaporean, it was absolutely mind-blowing seeing the celebrities that I grew up watching—such as, Tan Kheng Hua, Pierre Png, Fiona Xie and Selena Tan—step foot onto the Hollywood scene. It was completely unexpected, but more than appreciated.

Overall, Crazy Rich Asians glamourises Singapore to extreme proportions and it is a little insane, but this film does function as a fun, yet hard-hitting romantic comedy; which means it’s not supposed to reflect reality, but rather present us all with a fantasy. Sure, it’s not the best romantic-comedy out there, but it’s definitely the best candidate and catalyst for Asian-representation in Hollywood (because honestly, it’s about bloody time).


‘Crazy Rich Asians’ is released to cinemas August 30.