Crazy Rich Asians has gained a lot of media attention recently for being one of the few English-speaking (mostly) movies with an Asian cast and Asian story that doesn’t involve whitewashing, the problem when non- white ethnic groups get portrayed by white actors, particularly for the main characters. Think of Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell. At first, the story seemed like it would be pretty cliche, with the clever American woman falling for the might-as-well-be prince who in the U.S. iui pretends to be ordinary. Because of this, she has no way of knowing who he really is (think The Prince and Me), but this part of the storyline was very well done. The movie also captured very accurately the Asian News Network, by which news travels faster by word of mouth than by any other method, internationally or otherwise. This was hilarious and relatable, also highlighting the mentality of worrying “what would people think” that is so common in Asian culture.
As a particular strength, the movie has some great female Asian leads in the story. I really appreciated the way it depicts the Asian matriarchs and Asian mothers overall quite accurately, stereotypes and all, including how far they will go for their kids, not to mention how harsh they can be on current or prospective daughters-in-law. The best friend character was offbeat but especially to Asians. It portrays the problems of worrying what people people think, embarrassing members of family, and other gems. These details make the movie both hilarious and awkward.
I would recommend this movie with its depiction of the lifestyles of the rich and somewhat shameless in all their grime and glory. The dynamics between women were very interesting, as they included a wide range of relationships and interactions, from uplifting to demeaning/demoralizing, supportive to critical, wise and clever to jealous and pompous. The movie touched quite well on culture, stereotypes, and imposter syndrome, a common issue with overachievers who don’t always internalize their successes and attribute them more to luck than to their hard work and talent. I especially loved the tough love bestie character who was always prepared for any occasion, and I had to burst out laughing when she pulled out a dress from her trunk for the family gathering party with these Crazy Rich Asians’ royals.
As with any movie, Crazy Rich Asians has faced some criticism, especially within the Asian community. Some have suggested that the movie title should have been Crazy Rich Singaporean Chinese, and others have questioned, “Where are the brown people?” I feel that the movie isn’t meant to represent all Asians as a whole, but a subset that’s absurd by design, hence the title. Another thing some people have claimed is that the movie depicts Asians as model minorities, doing a disservice to all the Asians who are not crazy rich or may not otherwise fit these stereotypes. I disagree about that because the film definitely showed the less affluent as well as the rich. Thus the movie shows how the perception of success really is all relative, a message which it mentions with the leading lady’s upbringing and her mother’s struggle as an immigrant in the US.
I went to see Crazy Rich Asians with my very own crazy poor Asian group of ladies, and we had a blast. We looked at one another and decided that this would likely be the preferred wedding style for one of them, because she is a fantastic, immaculate dresser and pretty glamorous. Now if only we could afford to attend an event like that. . . .