Crazy Rich Asians
Who would have thought that a film about Chinese family values would prove to be such a lovely film?
There are many themes running through its two hour length, so it can get a bit confusing at times, especially when we Westerners have difficulty seeing the differences in their looks. Fortunately, the characters were played ‘large’ on the silver screen, so after a while one begins to recognize who each person is and how they fit in the story.
To make it easier for the viewer, Harper’s Bazaar, Singapore created a primer of the main characters. You can read it by clicking here.
I guess the idea of this movie (and the original books) was to show the Americans a thing or two about conspicuous spending. The visual effect is one of being overwhelmed by it all. A similar, but less ostentatious, display occurred during the wedding feast in The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, based in India. It’s an eye-opener that wealth can exist in the midst of poverty.
The reason for Nick and Rachel’s visit to Singapore is also to attend a wedding, and the hi-jinx surrounding it are ridiculous in the extreme. The subtext is that the Rachel’s American “nouveau pauvre” is no match for Nick’s Singapore ‘old money’. And the contrast of American and British accents demonstrates the New World vs. Old Order differences.
Admittedly, there is plenty to laugh about. Every Chinese stereotype is lampooned by the story. My favourite is the character played by Awkwafina: Peik Lin is Rachel’s school friend from Stanford days, and her role is one of a fairy godmother to Rachel. She made me laugh every time she was on screen.
The other women around Nick’s age are like Kardashian wannabes. The men are all hunks and playboys. Only Nick comes across as genuine and truly in love with Rachel.
Nick’s sister seems to be the only one who understands that money can’t buy you happiness. But that is because she has all the money she needs and yet it drives a wedge between herself and her husband. Her role is the only sad one in the whole movie, so partway through the closing credits, the producers allowed a short vignette to resolve her story.
This is the main point of the story, and it would seem that, although family is all important, love has been in short supply.
Rachel’s mother is the best. Nick’s is the worst. I won’t divulge the actual plot elements, but I will reference the showdown in the Mahjong parlour.
Rachel is a professor at NYU. She teaches Economics, but also demonstrates to her students how games are played, won and lost. In the aftermath of Nick asking her to marry him, Rachel invites Nick’s mother to the Mahjong parlour to play one round.
The second last bamboo tile (the ‘WM’ one) represents the number 8. To the Chinese, 8 is a very lucky number. Several times during the game, Rachel held the tile in her hand, changed her mind, then picked it up again. All the while, she is explaining to Nick’s mother that she had turned Nick’s offer of marriage down, and why. Then she puts the tile down in the discard area, and Nick’s mother picks it up, puts it in her spread and then reveals what she thinks is her winning hand.
Meanwhile, Rachel continues her explanation, and after she says her final words, reveals her winning hand. She had defeated Nick’s mother. She then gets up, finds her own mother on the way out and they leave arm-in-arm. It was excellent gamesmanship.
This film was based on the first of three book. That means there will be two more films to come. The dangling plot lines will then be picked up and a continuation of the story will occur.
I can see one such plot line: Rachel taking a DNA test in order to find her ‘unknown’ father.
Another plot line: Nick will have to decide once and for all if he is going to reject his family’s wealth so that he and Rachel can live happily ever after in New York City.
And one final line: Will Astrid find true happiness?
We’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?