Cinematic Releases: Crazy Rich Asians (2018) Reviewed

While Crazy Rich Asians does mix familiar romantic comedy elements together effectively, what is more noteworthy is its comments on global hegemony, whether it’s caucasian or asian. 

The movie opens with a quote from Napoleon Bonaparte, “China is a sleeping giant. Let her sleep, for when she wakes, she will move the world.” While it’s tempting to say that at the time of this utterance, European empires were spreading their white tentacles all over the world, while asian countries were trying to adapt to western influences, the past is more nuanced than that -- and a reading of Crazy Rich Asians is as nuanced as you want it to be.

Reminiscent of Wong Kar-wai’s Chung King Express (1994), the soundtrack contains Chinese covers of pop English-language songs. While the inclusion of Faye Wong’s cover of The Cranberries’ “Dreams” in Chung King Express signaled Hong Kong’s ambivalence to reintegrating into China, the inclusion of Katherine Ho’s cover of Coldplay’s “Yellow” in Crazy Rich Asians is an index to Hollywood’s first all-Asian cast since The Joy Luck Club (1993).

That's what she said. We're asian. We're crazy. And we're rich!

The biggest elephant in the room in terms of the asian/caucasian rivalry is the English language that almost all of the characters speak. Like many popular Indian movies, Crazy Rich Asians caters to a diasporic audience. With the multitude of nations and languages that Asia represents, arguably one of the most efficient vehicles for communicating a story to such a varied audience is a Hollywood movie with today’s lingua franca, English.

In telling the story of Crazy Rich Asians, the film somewhat serves as a consumerist postcard for Singapore, a country known for its educational prowess, robust economy, and highly situated hotel swimming pools. The extreme opulence shown in the movie is common amongst romantic comedies; that the material needs for the characters are met allow for the magnification of the social and romantic drama that unfolds between them.

While CRA is slow to introduce its predictable conflicts, the latter half of the film effectively executes its plot points to give what the audience likely wants -- an artful negotiation between a tiger mom and a sympathetic bride-to-be. Crazy Rich Asiansdraws on a lot of the genre of the star-crossed lovers, including skeletons in the closet from the likes of Pride & Prejudice,  and last-minute airplane heroics from the likes of The Family Man and The Wedding Singer.

All in all, Crazy Rich Asians is worth seeing -- not only for its strong third act, but its statement on Asian representation in a seemingly-white global hegemony.

-Blake Pynnonen