Crazy Rich Culture: Hollywood's Best New Feature
As we approach another weekend Hollywood release date, one film in particular is likely - nah...., certain - to stand apart from its box office companions for more reasons than one.
Cultural and racial diversity have gradually begun to manifest in different corners of our own culture. Hollywood, however, has been slower to catch on. Sure, there was the Bend it Like Beckham, a personal highlight shimmering in my adolescence, with a yummy cameo of Becks himself to top off a feel-good girly movie. Thennnn sixteen years later, any movie buff knows Black Panther, with its an all-black cast, absolutely smashed records and box office revenue upon its winter release in 2018. Then there’s talk of a multi-racial cast of the upcoming live-filmed Aladdin set to hit theaters May of 2019 (YASSZZZ). AND most recent group of all, Disney tweeted a kick-ass pic of Chinese model and actress Yifei Liu, whom they cast to star as - you guessed it - Mulan, in the live-action portrayal scheduled for a spring 2020 release (I’m screaming). But all Asian cast films outside of badly off-lip-synced Bruce Lee-esque Kung fu B-movies, have been about as scarce as any plans I have for Valentine’s Day.
I first picked up the sequel to Crazy Rich Asians (called China Rich Girlfriend) as a beach read for vacation. But alas, this was no ordinary guilty pleasure read, and so feast away I did, in less than a week! Singaporean-American novelist Kevin Kwan brings the opulence of the uber-rich Asian upper crust to life in such rich detail, such wit, beautifully varied syntax, and incredible language, I flew through that sequel and found myself snatching up Kwan’s first book to devour as well. (Does it count as a guilty read if I carry a dictionary with this book to keep up with all his funky adjectives? Nah.)
I’ve been a traveler all my adult life, but I’d never felt the push to explore Asia. But after having read Kwan’s books, it’s piqued my curiosity like a well-oiled twelve-pack. Not that I can afford to grace through extravagant fundraiser,s and yacht hopping jaunts, and privately-owned island parties...but for me, the street food market stalls of foodie-lovers’ paradise, Hong Kong, will do. Kwan’s verbose and decadent depiction of Asian culture will make your mouth water, your eyes pop, and your fingers itching to click “Purchase” for the next plane ticket to Changi.
And now, grab your Raisinets and Ranch-powdered popcorn, people, ‘cause they’re makin’ a stinkin’ movie.
Reviews range from the poshy posh (The NYT: “‘Crazy Rich Asians’ is a Party with a First-Rate Guest List” with its *pinky out*) to millennial bougie (The Skimm: “‘Pride and Prejudice’ meets ‘Gossip Girl’...with a few extra billion.”) Cue mouth drop. So come opening night, how will the rest of the world fare? (especially considering no one will know that I read these books before they will most definitely turn cool once this movie hits the big screen? It’s fine. I’m fine. But whenever I felt like sharing what book I’d been reading at the time, mostly I got looks as though I myself were a crazy rich Asian. I suppose there are worse things…)
All jokes aside, the film’s release is expected to make major waves - exactly how major, only time will tell. To begin, I think we’re all ready to break from the same tired Asian stereotypes. Is the world ready for the real deal?? Also worth noting is that this will the first all-Asian cast film in twenty-five years! Joy Luck Club came out in 1993, also based on a novel (which some say even this one reinforces harmful Asian-American stereotypes...watch at your own discretion.)
Point blank, CRA film has a huge potential to carry the future of Asian films into a whole new arena. In lieu of another reminder that “Asians can’t drive” (à la The Office), how about pulling back the curtain veiling an underrepresented group? A step further even, the uber uber rich of an underrepresented group? I speak for literally everyone in the rest of the world. We are here for it.
Culturally, I think viewers are in for a real treat. From reading the books, I found the interactive dynamic among different Asian countries fascinating! #NerdMoment (What...sometimes just a baby lil escape from my own broke af existence is a good enough Friday night for moi so you can stop judging me ‘mkay Carol?) Some scenes are very Golden Girl-esque: throughout the books a notoriously snooty friend group of the richest wives in Asia, a handful of little old Asian moms, gathered on the reg, to talk trash about other women they called “mainlanders”. Who knew?
Another stylistic part of the book I loved...footnote translations. Stop laughing. I looooved Kwan’s explanations of the occasional mandarin or Singaporean phrase (ahhhhh light bulb) and several of his descriptive words were so far out of my mental orbit that I found myself scrambling for a dictionary to keep up with the imagery. (I’m praying they somehow weave these into the movie. *Fingers crossed.*)
There’s also the fact that the cast is hawt. And Ken Jeong’s in it.
Cover Image Via LaTimes