Hollywood doesn’t have the greatest history when it comes to diversity, but a film like Crazy Rich Asians, and the critical and commercial response it has received, speaks volumes. An USC Annenberg study “Inequaility in 1,100 Popular Films” found only 4 films in 2017 had protagonists that were women of colour. 4. So the very fact that this film was made, and is coming out in close proximity to Netflix’s very well received To All The Boys I’ve Ever Loved Before, is really kinda awesome.
Where Hollywood was clearly missing out (although it seems they might be learning their lesson here) is in undervaluing the market. People of colour want to be represented on screen, thus when a movie like Crazy Rich Asians or Black Panther comes out, the underrepresented minority come out in droves to see people that look like them on screen – but more than just the diversity factor, Crazy Rich Asians is a damn good movie.
There’s been plenty of recent films where there’s a culture clash Bend It Like Beckham, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, etc. But Crazy Rich Asians did something interesting. It didn’t pit it’s Asian-ness against the ever-present White-ness like the other two films mentioned, but rather, explored a complex relationship within the immigrant community: comparing the Asian American experience, to those who grew up in Asia (although, I wouldn’t say the character of Nick Young exactly had a typical upbringing).
Crazy Rich Asians is essentially, a standard romantic comedy. It’s clear where almost everything is going, the characters are attractive, engaging, attractive, often shirtless, and attractive. With lots of opportunity for Henry Golding to walk around with his shirt off, which I have no complaints about.
The cast of Crazy Rich Asian is what really sells me on that movie. Constance Wu was an absolute delight in every seen she’s in, and whilst Henry Golding was kinda bland and boring – he wasn’t atrocious to look at, and that’s essentially what that role calls for. There were some great moments with Nico Santos, the self-proclaimed “rainbow sheep” of the family, and Gemma Chan’s B story arc, but really this movie belonged to two people: Awkwafina, and Michelle Yeoh. Yeoh plays Eleanor Young, and is a force to be reckoned with, both as an actress and through her character. The most powerful scenes in the movie aren’t between the lead couple, but rather, Constance Wu and Michelle Yeoh. Watch out for those. On the other hand, Awkwafina in exploding into the scene after her roles in both Oceans 8 and Crazy Rich Asians. In fact, THR is reporting Yeoh and Awkwafina will reunite in Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s follow up to Swiss Army Man: Everything Everywhere All at Once, produced by Avengers: Infinity War’s Russo brothers. That’s a lot of names I like making an intergalactic sci-fi/action romp I’m definitely putting on my ‘want’ list.
Whilst there’s so much to love about Crazy Rich Asians from the cast, to the costumes and sets (there is literally the most lavish wedding scene I’ve ever witnessed in a film in this movie), not everything about Crazy Rich Asians is crazy friggen good. Firstly, there’s some controversy about the representation of the lighter skinned East Asian in the much darker southern-Asian region of Singapore, which is very much a worthy criticism and worth noting. As a white man, colourism isn’t something I’m super familiar with – but is clearly evident in a bunch of Asian and south American cultures to say the very least. The film does address this with a story point, but that really only drew attention to the issue, without actually doing anything about it.
A criticism I am well versed in, however, is script writing. Crazy Rich Asians is great – and there were genuine moments of surprise, emotion and delight throughout this film. But, there were also moments where I found myself wondering where I was, which plotline I was following now, and at times, checking my watch. I wondered why we need an introduction to Nick’s male cousins when they’re hardly in the film at all, or why we couldn’t have taken the time spent with them and further fleshed out the B plot surrounding Nick’s other cousin Astrid – which felt rushed and incomplete.
That said, both of these issues could easily be put down to how few and far between Asian American films get made. The desire to cram as much in a possible is understandable, when you’ve got literally decades between this and when another might be made again. Or having so few roles out there that a predominantly lighter group of Asians dominate a cast where there could clearly be roles going to more individuals of colour.
But good news! Since tonnes of crazy, rich Asians are going to watch Crazy Rich Asians, we’ve got a sequel on the way. One that hopefully takes it’s time with script issues, brings some Asians of colour into the mix, lets Henry Golding take his shirt off some more and gives me all of the Awkwafina, Michelle Yeoh and Constance Wu I can handle!
Crazy Rich Asians is in cinemas now, and probably will be for a while. Go watch it, it’s great. Give it some love, fiscally and on social media. Then go and watch it again.
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