Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
August 15, 2018 9:33 PM - Subscribe

Rachel Chu is happy to accompany her longtime boyfriend, Nick, to his best friend's wedding in Singapore. She's also surprised to learn that Nick's family is extremely wealthy and he's considered one of the country's most eligible bachelors. Thrust into the spotlight, Rachel must now contend with jealous socialites, quirky relatives and something far, far worse -- Nick's disapproving mother.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (90 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I loved the book so I did something I NEVER EVER DO and I went on opening night and AAAAAAAAAAAAAH! I loved it so much! I cried like four times! I laughed until I snorted! It's so good you guys! And it was fantastic to see so many actors I love who are always relegated to sidekick roles get star turns. And, holy cow, I would watch Gemma Chan read the phone book. And Awkwafina was hilarious! Outstanding! And this should really get Constance Wu more high-profile roles because she was spectacular on the big screen. AAAAAAAAAH! I am still processing how much I loved this movie and will have more to say after I've finished internally screaming with excitement and maybe go see it again right away.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:38 PM on August 15, 2018 [12 favorites]

I certainly appreciated the film's commitment to showing Henry Golding without a shirt so often in the first half!

I thought it was pretty delightful and that they streamlined the novel fairly well--though I do wish they had developed the Astrid-Michael-Charlie bit more, rather than relegating Charlie to an easter egg. I thought it was interesting that they were careful to wrap this up so neatly, as if this isn't going to be huge and need a sequel!

The only things that disappointed me were that Oliver was far campier than he comes across in the novels and that Ah-Ma was harsher than she is in the novel...
posted by TwoStride at 9:56 PM on August 15, 2018 [2 favorites]

Just got out of it! Super fun, and I like the depth that was added to Eleanor's character.

Was mildly thrown off by the mix of dialects... gonna headcanon that the Youngs are mostly northeners, with the dumplings and all, but Eleanor's Canto, which emphasizes her outsider status
posted by airmail at 10:07 PM on August 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

What an absolutely excellent book to movie adaptation. I reread the books after catching an early screening and wow, the mahjong scene is just MILES better than the way it's resolved in the book, to the point where I can't help but be a bit critical of book-Rachel for the choice she made at the same juncture. And, swoon, that airplane scene! Also they let Peik-Lin go to the party and she delivered THAT line!!! I might see the movie five more times just to relive that moment.

I will laugh forever at how Harry Shum Jr. is like sixth billed for literally two seconds of work. But I think it was a smart choice to leave him as a teaser since Astrid's story in the second and third books is a tad slow.

OK off to book tickets to Singapore now. Mmmm that food looked good.
posted by acidic at 12:41 AM on August 16, 2018 [5 favorites]

I had suuuuch mixed feelings about this. On the one hand: A+ cast, a richly hilarious turn by Awkwafina, and who knows how many wheels and deals took place in backrooms to get this movie made! I want this film to open so many doors. On the other hand: yuck, why are we still glorifying rich people?? Most of the women are crazy, catty or cold, men are either lechers or princes (or they stop being men at all when they fuck up!), gays get "Asian Ellen" jokes and no dates, and the fat kid is creepy and stalkerish but that's okay, haha he's harmless! And Nick somehow gets a pass for throwing Rachel into his deeply deranged family because, twu luv blinds? Meanwhile, she does all the hard emotional work and somehow he's still the one sweeping her away at the end. Just, ugh.

Maybe I'm so far from this super-hetero, aspirational wealth fantasy that I can't adore it. But! I hope it makes a lot of money so we can have more/better.
posted by fritillary at 12:53 AM on August 16, 2018 [13 favorites]

There's also still an active post on the blue if you'd like more links.
posted by cendawanita at 6:03 AM on August 16, 2018

I haven't seen the movie but the director was interviewed on NPR
posted by ian1977 at 7:26 AM on August 16, 2018

acidic, you took the words right out of my mouth! That mahjong scene (just masterful), followed by the airplane scene (classic rom-com), is just too much to handle. It's so good. And Nick in the airplane scene made me love him so much more than anything his dumb boring ass did in the book.

A lot has been made about this being the first Hollywood film with an all-Asian cast since Joy Luck Club. If you're not Asian, what you may not know is that Joy Luck Club (book and movie) touched off 30 years of hurt feelings in Asian America because of how Asian men are portrayed (essentially, as terrible abusers and totally undesirable). So yes, LET US take a moment to appreciate the film's commitment to eligible, charming Asian men taking off their shirts to reveal their six-packs, and let us appreciate it in context. Henry Golding? Hello. Chris Pang? Yes. That fellow who plays Michael Teo? Your character sucks, I'm sorry, but oh, heeeeyyyy. (And we have abs in reserve for the sequel, hey there Harry Shum Jr.) I'm basically just basking in this as a reward for all those lean years when people would straight up say Asian men were unattractive like it was an unavoidable fact and then one intrepid woman would be like "Oh but there's John Cho, he's hot" and then everyone would take up the call of John Cho because THERE WERE NO OTHERS.

What else... Eddie didn't say "Fucky fuck!" once. (Because of ratings?) Oh well. I gotta go to work but I'm sure more thoughts will bubble up
posted by sunset in snow country at 8:22 AM on August 16, 2018 [17 favorites]

A lot has been made about this being the first Hollywood film with an all-Asian cast since Joy Luck Club.

I haven't watched this film myself, but Better Luck Tomorrow definitely had an all-Asian cast. I only bring this up, because it seems to fallen into the internet memory hole when people are talking about all-Asian Hollywood movies. My only guess as to why is maybe as a teen drama it was more of a generational thing and so it didn't age well?

Oh, and I also bring this up because now we're kind of three for three with Hollywood movies that have all Asian casts and three word titles (JLC, BLT, and CRA).
posted by FJT at 10:04 AM on August 16, 2018

I haven't seen it, but I don't think of Better Luck Tomorrow as "Hollywood" - it was a tiny indie film, no? (Although as long as we're talking about Justin Lin, Finishing the Game was hilarious.)
posted by sunset in snow country at 10:25 AM on August 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I saw it last night and I loved it! I haven't read the book so I have nothing to compare it to, but the movie was such a satisfying rom-com, a genre that Hollywood seems to be ignoring lately (do I need a so-called "rom-com" where an amazing woman meets a schlubby, jerky guy and it's really just an excuse for raunchy jokes as they magically fall in love just because the script says so? No, I do not! Gimme that story where a couple's love for each other actually makes sense, and the guy is handsome and decent and respects how amazing and wonderful the woman is -- the Cinderella story is just icing on the cake).

Constance Wu (and her dimples) are everything and I need her to star in all the things from now on. ALL THE THINGS.

I loved Rachel's dynamic with her mother and I legit cried when (SPOILER ALERT) Mom showed up at the end (and Mom's last look as they walked out of the mahjong room, ooooh, Eleanor, did ya feel that icy burn?). I also loved that Rachel and Nick had a pretty honest relationship -- beyond the obvious "why didn't you tell me about your family and money before this trip." Okay, maybe Nick was naive in thinking he could just bring Rachel to meet everyone and there'd be no harm, no foul, but I loved that she told him about the fish because I feel like in a lot of stories, the woman would try to stifle all the terrible things the other women were doing to her.

It was also hilarious -- I don't often laugh out loud while movies (at least, not in the theater!), but I laughed a lot (genuine guffaws, even).

The gorgeous setting (and lotsa abs) were a fun bonus, although I'm mad that I can't fly to Singapore right now and eat all the things. I want to spend a week just wandering the hawker centres, mebbe spend a full day on satay street. Because I have priorities. Also super rich people are ridiculous but I can't lie that I totally want a dramatic water aisle if I ever get married.

I'm already begging more friends to come see it with me this weekend just so I can experience it (and Constance Wu's dimples) again.
posted by paisley sheep at 11:56 AM on August 16, 2018 [6 favorites]

I think the emphasis by the cast is that this is the first all-Asian film in 25 years with Asian Americans cast as leads:

I guess there is a kerfuffle online about the "first all-Asian cast in 25 years" claim so some of the people involved took it upon themselves to clear it up. Either way, I'm just excited about seeing Asians in roles that aren't stunt or stereotype casting. I can't wait to watch this on Saturday (and YES bring on the Asian man candy)
posted by sprezzy at 1:19 PM on August 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

This was so good! Great adaption.

The soundtrack too!

My own complaint? The brother was creepy and it wasn't treated well. She isn't Ms. Chu, she is Dr. Chu. And Nick too!
posted by k8t at 9:38 PM on August 16, 2018 [3 favorites]

But just strictly on all-Asian cast with Asian leads, what about The Namesake?
posted by cendawanita at 11:49 PM on August 16, 2018

In everyday US parlance, "Asian" means "East Asian" (and to a slightly lesser degree, Southeast Asian). People from the subcontinent would be called Indian (or, often, Indian-from-India to differentiate from Native Americans, and in either case frequently corrected to "actually I'm Pakistani."). The US census uses "Asian" for people from the subcontinent, but you basically don't hear it otherwise in the US; a lot of Americans are totally flummoxed when they watch British TV and hear someone of Indian or Pakistani descent called Asian. So when the cast and the US entertainment press is talking about Hollywood casting and movies, when they say "Asian" they mean "East Asian."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:43 AM on August 17, 2018 [4 favorites]

Hmmm. Kinda awkward choosing Singapore as a setting then, considering its Indian population.
posted by cendawanita at 5:12 AM on August 17, 2018

Singapore’s population is about 75% Chinese and 9% Indian, so it’s not as if the movie has grossly misrepresented the demographics of the city-state. I’m not saying that the movie is perfect, but it’s a reflection of the book it was adapted from.
posted by andrewesque at 9:02 AM on August 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

I sincerely hate being one of the constant party pooper whenever this movie comes up but what a bewilderingly hurtful thing to say. Asian-Americans according to Wikipedia makes up 5.6% of the American population, of which the Chinese roughly makes up a quarter of that. So??
posted by cendawanita at 9:40 AM on August 17, 2018 [3 favorites]

I feel bad for derailing the convo with the "first since Joy Luck Club" thing. I honestly don't know what criteria people are using to judge that, and I think what is really happening is that people actually mean "these are the only two movies about Asian Americans in the past 25 years that have caused a splash and sent ripples through the entertainment industry," and because that's not a bright-line criteria, we try to tack on things like "no period pieces" and "no indie films" and whatever. Contrary to what Eyebrows says and what most of white America thinks, the Asian American activist community does at least make an effort to include South Asians in our conversations and our roundups and our thinking on the state of Asian America, although I'll leave it to someone from that community to say whether we're actually successful (I think it's a mixed bag at best).

If we are just listing movies about Asian Americans, I say The Namesake absolutely counts, and I'll throw in the excellent Picture Bride, which is a period piece about recent immigrants, but (imo) so deeply American. It came out in 1995, two years after The Joy Luck Club, and in my Asian American Film class in college, for which Picture Bride was by FAR the biggest-production film we watched, the teacher emphasized that it was scooped up by Miramax and given a big budget because of The Joy Luck Club, because the entertainment industry was looking for the next Asian American success. They tried to market it as this super sexy movie (check out that movie poster in the Wikipedia article) and it flopped because it was nothing like that and nothing like The Joy Luck Club. So yes, there have been movies in the intervening years that have portrayed Asian Americans in varying ways, but Crazy Rich Asians, like The Joy Luck Club, has made people stand up and pay attention.

Plus, even if we've managed to name a number of movies about Asian Americans from the intervening 25 years, compare that number to the number of movies where Hollywood has whitewashed an Asian character in just the last five years. I mean.
posted by sunset in snow country at 11:17 AM on August 17, 2018 [4 favorites]

Look in THR cover story: Everyone was on the lookout for potential blind spots and cultural cliches. Wu convinced Chu to remove dialogue from the book wherein Rachel boasts about never dating Asian men.

Apparently we can have just enough insight to remove troubling stereotypes as it relates to the Asian-American life, but when it comes to the Singapore bit, the movie must be, what, faithful to its own elite/supremacist stereotypes?
posted by cendawanita at 12:11 PM on August 17, 2018 [4 favorites]

I think I misread the point of cendawanita’s original comment because of some stuff from outside the thread I had read about the movie’s accuracy in its portrayal of Singapore’s population, so I think I contributed to the detail and apologize for that.
posted by andrewesque at 12:14 PM on August 17, 2018

cendawanita, I don't know how to say this without sounding kind of useless and hollow given my obvious love of this movie, but I have really appreciated all the links and perspective you've provided here and in the two threads on the blue. It's uncomfortable but needed.

In other news, I just found out that the song from the ending is a freaking Coldplay cover. I THOUGHT there was something familiar about it... (Goddamn this was a great soundtrack tho)
posted by sunset in snow country at 2:59 PM on August 17, 2018 [6 favorites]

I thought it was very well filmed to make much of this clear to those who don't know the rules of mahjong, but I liked this mahjong scene explainer on the Angry Asian Man blog.
posted by TwoStride at 8:18 PM on August 17, 2018 [23 favorites]

sunset in snow country, thank you and I do appreciate the support you and others have shown to the Singaporean and Malaysian perspectives shared. I'm really glad the movie is good and it's doing well, if not for anything else I've got friends and FoF involved in the production! (And the utter randomness of one of the SG cast following me on twitter... Because I RT'd all that CRA stuff...?) More light-heartedly I do think a lot of the (Asian-)American reaction has been one of being caught off-guard to being the recipient of the grand old tradition of ppl in the location countries playing the peanut gallery to the inconsistencies in worldbuilding. (Like, Irish ppl I know give shit about White Americans and their pop cultural fascination about Ireland all the time.) And Singaporeans especially have been eyerolling at Hollywood continually thinking it's a Chinese country (eg POTC with Chow Yun Fatt or this random Criminal Minds episode that came last year or so). But somehow this time it's got more fraught BECAUSE Americans keep wanting to beat the gong of representation this time and hating any kind of pushback which they have generally associated with racist white whataboutery and that's what the response seems to be which betrayed a lack of understanding and listening. I guess because unlike the previous examples, it's them at the driving seat and not white ppl, and they're not used at being treated as Americans instead of hyphenated Asians. (You should've been around Malaysians when Zoolander and Entrapment came out)

So there are two things: 1. Americans, you will always get nitpicking from the locals for as long you love making these exoticising productions. And 2. If you want to borrow representation, you could at least do the homework.

(Imagine if the biggest Netflix production of 2019 in the global pop culture landscape to be a series about an Asian-American family but it's cast entirely by the crème of the Southeast Asian actor crop (because we speak English! But not... American English) and it's clearly got nothing to do with Americans despite the trappings. But every commentary is about how amazing and impactful it is to all Asians. In the meantime everyone sounds like they're either from Bukit Timah or Metro Manila. Even if you want to keep an open mind, you'd stay salty about it.)

In any case the last week have taught me even more the many ways Black Panther could've gone wrong. The world is not ready for Anglophone Africa and their op-eds.
posted by cendawanita at 8:52 PM on August 17, 2018 [5 favorites]

I was privileged enough to see this in the company of a native Singaporean. Her running commentary on the food and the locations was a delight, on top of the movie, which we both enjoyed.

I really loved the scene with Astrid and Rachel on the beach. I don't know if I've seen that kind of quiet, there's-nothing-I-can-say-but-I-can-stay-with-you moment on screen before. They carried it beautifully.
posted by snerson at 8:11 PM on August 18, 2018 [5 favorites]

I went to see this out of a sense of obligation, because I knew if it failed, the message Hollywood would take from it would be “movies with all-Asian casts don’t sell” and not “maybe we should have done a better job representing the ethnic diversity of Singapore” or “maybe we should have done an all-Asian heist movie, or an all-Asian science fiction movie.”

So my expectations were pretty low, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well-made a movie it was. The mah-jongg scene was just fantastic writing, managing to resolve the emotional stakes in the movie while also calling back to Rachel’s first scene (where she talks about the difficulty of playing a game when you’re focused about what you might lose), and being a subtle hat tip to the Joy Luck Club. And it wasn’t even from the book! (From reading the synopses of the books on wikipedia, it seems like the screenwriters improved upon the source material.)

I loved Awkwafina in this. Her character provided much-needed comic relief with her unfilteredness, but when she saw that Rachel was in a really bad place, she immediately dialed it down. There were a lot of nice moments of geniune supportive friendship in this movie, which was nice to see.

If the first all-Asian movie in a while had to be a rom-com, I’m delighted that it turned out to be a well-written, well-acted, and well-produced rom-com. Kudos to everyone involved.
posted by creepygirl at 3:55 PM on August 19, 2018 [7 favorites]

I wasn't paying much attention to movie news over the weekend and had been vacillating over whether or not to see it. I like some rich people fiction (if there's at least some nice people) but not others (if everyone's an asshole) and I wasn't sure what this was. But I decided to go since I had the free time and what was said above about how there won't be another one for 25 years if you don't. I wasn't expecting this to be a hit because here we have two mainstream theaters both owned by Regal and they always put the movies they expect to be hits in Theater A and this one was in Theater B with four showings. But:

(a) I showed up five minutes before the movie started and there was a line and everyone ahead of me was buying tickets for it.
(b) I saw a sign saying “4:10 Crazy Rich Asians Sold Out” on the counter, at the ready,
(c) Sure ‘nuff, I think the entire theater was almost entirely full. I had to sit in the third row and even that ended up being full. I dunno about the very front row but people were in it.
(d) This is the most people I’ve ever seen in a theater movie here that didn’t involve a superhero.

And it was amazing! Romantic comedy is back, y’all! It’s beautiful, most of the folks are nice (so it fits my qualifier of “must have some nice rich people” in there), it’s romantic, it’s got very loyal friends, it’s got parental conflicts, it’s got fashion, it’s got amazing scenery and crazy parties.

Other awesome things about the movie:
* The second proposal scene is adorable, with Nick helping people with their luggage in between describing how he'd originally intended this, AND THEN HE BREAKS OUT ELEANOR'S RING! I think I screamed a little.
* I did not like Peik Lin's creepy relatives, but I was amused by the one who planned Colin’s bachelor party on a giant barge in international waters, where there are a bunch of bimbos and a rocket launcher.
* Nick and Colin are all, “we have GOT to get off this barge,” take the helicopter, and crash quietly on some floating platform on another island to drink beer. Nice boys, you are.
* The parties are a delight. There’s the barge, there’s the “free shopping trip” on an island Araminta sets up, there’s very pretty sets, and for whatever reason, the bride walks down a water-filled aisle in a giant dress. Not sure why that is a thing but it is crazy pretty.
* Peik Lin is a delight. It’s hilarious how she is the clothing arbiter for Rachel and yet is going around in like, dog pajamas and random animal print clothing. Note to Peik Lin: if you are going by the Youngs, even to just drop Rachel off, you might want to spiff up a bit. That said, she literally has bags of clothes for clubbing, partying, and “walk of shame” in her car, just in case. I cannot argue with her father’s assessment that she is “Asian Ellen,” though. She bucks Rachel up and takes her in and guides her and gets her to fight back. Bawk bawk!
* Nick’s friendships are very sweet.
* Nick and Rachel are very sweet.
* You respect Eleanor even as she’s kind of giving a polite cold shoulder. She’s not evil, just disapproving.
* The start of the movie features Eleanor, Nick, Astrid, and Astrid’s mom (Felicity, I think) trying to check into some exclusive English hotel they made reservations at, and being brutally snubbed and refused entry or even to use a phone. Eleanor makes a call and next thing you know, the owner JUST sold it to the Youngs. I haven’t seen anything like that since “Big mistake. Huge.” in Pretty Woman. Wow.

I really loved this, I was psyched to see it. I will see if I can find more free time to see it again before it's out of theaters. I hope they do a sequel as fast as they can so Harry Shum Jr. can get to do something!
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:38 PM on August 19, 2018 [5 favorites]

"Oh but there's John Cho, he's hot" and then everyone would take up the call of John Cho because THERE WERE NO OTHERS.

And Garrett Wang is, like all, "still a fucking ensign".

...poor Harry Kim.
posted by MikeKD at 12:38 AM on August 20, 2018 [4 favorites]

Crazy Rich Asians won the weekend box office and has already earned back its budget of $30 million:
In yet another reminder that diversity pays off at the box office, Jon M. Chu's groundbreaking romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians led the weekend nuptials with a three-day North American debut of $25.2 million and a five-day bow of $34 million.
Which, thank goodness! Because of course it's going to be viewed as a referendum on diversity in movies in general and Asian leads in particular. I've been very anxious for it to do well at the box office! And the better it does the more likely we are to get a sequel!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:44 AM on August 20, 2018 [4 favorites]

Yes, movies from the other books -- feel free to continue to pare down the plots some, including the Rachel's father one -- and more movies with diversity (this has lots of women, too!) and also more romcoms please.

I've been super excited for this movie since it was announced, and I'm so glad it lived up to all my expectations (I like all the plot changes they made that I remember, there were a number of them).
posted by jeather at 6:23 AM on August 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

So I went to see this over the weekend! And it was super-cute! I never thought I'd see, with my own two eyes, sitting in a big ol' movie theater in the US, a lady get urged to drink strengthening soup with dong guai. And the jewelry bling was in-fucking-credible. The sigh that went up in my row of roughly 50% East Asian women when you saw Astrid's earrings? And then the cherry on top that he's offering it to her at cost???? WITHOUT HAGGLING????????

(My Chinese mother is a woman who will once came home with brand-new diamond one-carat VVS's in EACH EAR for which she had paid in COLD HARD CASH. She is also the woman who once reduced my sister to tears in a McDonald's because she was haggling with the cashier about coupons.)

At the same time, the more you know about Asian history and dynamics in general, and Singapore in particular, the trickier certain parts of the movie are, even for an Asian-American like me who grew up explaining her Chinese middle name to white suburban school teachers.

That crack from Peik-Lin's dad about children being hungry in America? I laughed too, but Singapore actually has a significant problem with hunger among both children and the elderly. Those long, gorgeous series of shots of Singaporean street food? I sighed in food envy, but uh, there aren't a lot of curries in traditional Chinese food culture, and I know what I call it when a TV show made by white people gives me food porn of white people eating delicious tacos without any recognition of the food's roots, or letting a single Mexican person have a line to say, or even showing a single Mexican person onscreen who isn't a servant. The lines about Asian Ellen and the rainbow contingent of the family made the whole, heavily Asian theater I was in laugh, but in the year of our lord 2014, Singapore's highest court upheld the continuing criminalization of private, consensual sex between adult men.

Add in the way that fellow Asian-Americans have been on Twitter if anybody points stuff like this out, and Crazy Rich Asians is still fun and bubbly and charming and I hope it makes SO MUCH MONEY CONTINUE TO FUCKING OUTEARN MARK FUCKING WAHLBERG'S LATEST FILM OMG, but it's an object lesson into how true empowerment needs to be intersectional.
posted by joyceanmachine at 8:41 AM on August 20, 2018 [18 favorites]

Something that was particularly funny--the theater at which I saw this had NO IDEA how to target the trailers before it. Got the widest range of major studio release trailers I've seen in probably 15 years, if not my entire life.
posted by pykrete jungle at 10:51 AM on August 20, 2018 [11 favorites]

Lainey Gossip covered the music

When the very opening song played, I may have made a REALLY LOUD that sounded like I'd suddenly been kicked by a giraffe, because if you had to pick a single song from my childhood that signaled family times, that would be it. It's a new cover and arrangement, but an old standard. My dad would sing it downstairs when he was actually happy, and not the classical Chinese poetry he recited when he was just puttering around the house. My mother would blast, like, a Theresa Teng version at full version on our tape deck while ironing. I haven't heard it since I was seventeen and sweating my face off at home the summer before college, because my parents always made a THING of how late we could go before turning the air conditioning on every year.

And now, like, I'm sitting in the movie theater! Next to my one close friend who is also Chinese-American! And I'm trying to be guarded in my expectations because the books were #problematic! And I've seen all the nonsense on Twitter, and spoiled myself for the big musical reveal of "Yellow."

I was not spoiled for the opening song, and holy SHIT, if you needed to pick a song that would suddenly take this thirty-something year old back to being a kid with her parents? You could not have done better.

(At the reception to my wedding, my mother and her sisters danced to a song that is not a million miles away from the song that plays at the reception for the big wedding. Like, we're talking all lined up in birth order and did a very special coordinated dance together. When the first couple bars played, I may have made another giraffe-kicked noise wondering if they were going to be THAT on the nose with me. But fortunately, they didn't, and I didn't embarrass everyone that I was with by pulling out my phone and texting my mom ON THE SPOT.)

We may go watch the movie next weekend. :D
posted by joyceanmachine at 11:52 AM on August 20, 2018 [6 favorites]

Ha, pykrete jungle, we got the wide range of trailers at our screening too! After the movie, Mr. creepygirl and I discussed the range of the trailers and came to the same conclusion—they had no idea who was going to come to the movie, so why not serve up something for everyone?

My analysis of the possible reasoning for the trailers I saw:

A Simple Favor (dark thriller with Henry Golding) and Searching (dark thriller starring John Cho) for those people who like movies with Asian-American men in them.

Widows (gritty heist drama starring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Cynthia Erivo), for people who like movies starring WOC.

Night School (Tiffany Haddish and Kevin Hart) and What Men Want (Taraji Henson) for those who like comedies with POC leads.

Smallfoot (animated movie about a yeti who discovers the mythical human): for all the parents in the audience who are desperate for kid-friendly movies.

A Star is Born with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper: “Well, if you like Crazy Rich Asians, you might like another movie that doesn’t have car chases or people getting shot in it.”
posted by creepygirl at 12:13 PM on August 20, 2018 [8 favorites]

I got what I think of as "I guess women will see this?" trailers, a bit of everything with no particular genre in mind (this has shown up for me in movies like Ocean's 8, Wonder Woman, Fury Road, The Shape of Water). Interesting, though I do not remember what trailers I did see (nothing appealing), I know I didn't overlap one single movie with those listed.
posted by jeather at 12:19 PM on August 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

creepygirl: thanks for that--I think I saw pretty much the same trailers, and noted the focus on POC--thanks for the reminder, since I was drawing blanks on what they actually were. I think I found the range weird because, if I'd stopped to think about it, I would have expected more dramas and gentle romcoms featuring WOC--only I guess those don't tend to be major studio releases, unlike crime thrillers and "Kevin Hart gets suplexed."

joyceanmachine: my mother had pretty mild expectations, I think--she rarely seems movies in the theater--and she started tugging at my arm with the opening song--"I know this song!"
posted by pykrete jungle at 2:06 PM on August 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

Oooh, my trailers were A Simple Favor (and I didn't realize it was the same guy because I hadn't paid any attention to the CRA cast except the women), A Star is Born, The Hate U Give, and On The Basis of Sex. So... strong women and W/POC is who my local Alamo Drafthouse assumes is watching this movie.

I saw it again tonight and it was just as lovely and wonderful as it was the first time. I again teared up at the wedding scene where they're mouthing "I love you" during that glorious and beautiful over-the-top fairy garden procession (ugh, it's so gorgeous, I think I might have wanted to pay for another ticket just to experience that again on the big screen). I also cried a little when Mom arrived in Singapore, even though I was expecting it this time.

What I did realize this time around, though, is that this movie is really appreciative of the feminine gaze, which isn't something I would have guessed from a male director. All the gorgeous hot men who have random excuses to take off their shirts; the amazing dresses and jewels; the friendship between women that was so real and supportive; and, of course, a sweet guy that has hearts in his eyes whenever he looks at his girlfriend, who wants to do anything he can to make her happy. I also think I fell in love with Astrid a little more during the second viewing (her line about "I can't make you a man, because I can't make you into something you're not" -- which I'm paraphrasing badly -- still sends a frisson down my spine because it's so glorious).

PS: while I thought Henry Golding made a great Nick -- handsome and charming -- he was still kind of bland to me. (Not to mention I was dazzled by all the amazing women in this movie, because really, as much as I think it's a brilliant rom-com, it's still very much a story about women -- it's Eleanor's and Rachel's story). But I think I'm warming up to him, plus now that I realize he's the same guy from A Simple Favor, I'm heartily cosigning that he can be the new Hollywood Hunk and make his mark as the new handsome-but-charming-bland-leading-hero in all the things from now on. May the era of the Chris be over!
posted by paisley sheep at 6:51 PM on August 20, 2018 [3 favorites]

What I did realize this time around, though, is that this movie is really appreciative of the feminine gaze,

I LOL'd during the scene where Nick is changing his shirt at his grandmother's house, because the way that scene was filmed Henry Golding basically steps into a closeup as he's unbuttoning his shirt and it is most excellent. I feel like I haven't enjoyed that kind of pandering since the Thor movies.
posted by TwoStride at 6:57 PM on August 20, 2018 [2 favorites]

Two articles specifically about Katherine Ho and her amazing cover of "Yellow":

Washington Post

posted by Gorgik at 7:39 PM on August 20, 2018

well, the movie finally opens in Singapore this week, so the reviews are finally coming in: Crazy Rich Asians' is fun, frustrating and Singapore-lite.
posted by cendawanita at 9:53 PM on August 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

I haven't yet read the book but I was wondering why Rachel lets Eleanor insinuate that she doesn't show proper love for her mother when it's made clear in earlier scenes that Rachel and Kerry have a close, loving relationship(and Eleanor should know this perfectly well from the detective).
posted by brujita at 10:02 PM on August 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

@sailorhg on Twitter: you know what moment in the movie made me cry the most? there's a moment at the hawker stalls where nick orders satay in bahasa malayu/indonesian. when that happens i started sobbing, because i've never heard my language in a hollywood movie

while east asians get a whole movie about them, i get to cry over a single line of representation. i know the movie is not supposed to encompass the entire asian experience. i'm not mad at the movie. just at the state of things

there was also wait staff at the wedding that spoke english in a malaysian/indonesian accent. the hawker stall person and the wait staff person were my representation in the movie.

i'm so tired of my "i got to see myself in the waitstaff" with splaining about how this is about chinese singaporeans, or that it's a good first step. just please let me be sad?

posted by cendawanita at 11:00 PM on August 20, 2018 [6 favorites]

Cendawanita, my mother and her family are Singaporean Chinese, but originally from Indonesia, and one of the languages I grew up hearing was Indonesian. I sat up straight at that moment at the hawker stall because it amazed me to hear the language from my childhood in a Hollywood movie. I wanted to hear more of it and I wished there were more Singaporean accents in the movie; people didn't sound "right" most of the time to me.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:16 AM on August 21, 2018 [2 favorites]

At the same time, I will say I did enjoy the movie because I went with my parents, and it was special to see Singapore on screen with them. I could enjoy them whispering to me and each other about the places they recognized. I enjoyed seeing people in a silly, fluffy rom-com who look like my mother and her family. I am mixed, so although I identify primarily as Asian, I know there are people who would question that. But still, the people in the movie looked a lot more like me than a typical rom com where everyone is white.

The stalker brother was a real off note for me and I wish that had been cut.

But I was really drawn in by the two leads, who were beautiful and adorable and had wonderful chemistry. I loved Astrid and wanted a happy ending for her. I liked Awkwafina despite her blatantly American accent (my Singaporean mother LOVED her--"Soooooo cute! I LOVE her!"). I loved Rachel's relationship with her mother. I'll admit, I had a good time gawking at the beautiful clothes.

I know I'll see the inevitable sequels. I hope I can take my parents, too. Honestly the last movie I saw in the theatre with both of them before this one was, I think, ET. The first time around, in 1982.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:23 AM on August 21, 2018 [3 favorites]

Don't worry hurdy gurdy girl, knowing Singaporean ingenuity, give it a couple of months, and we'll have another Singaporean dub on YT like the ones we've shared a few months back :D

ok, this is truly truly hilarious to me: i was looking up my cinema app to figure out the showtimes, and why didn't anyone tell me that Mark Wahlberg movie is also set in Southeast Asia (Indonesia this time)?? HAHAHA. Of course their Southeast Asian star is the Indonesian Iko Uwais, from The Raid movies. And of course that's about another kind of imperialism.

i'm gonna need a minute, i need to go laugh at the world a bit.
posted by cendawanita at 1:25 AM on August 21, 2018

Get to know the entire cast of CRA - i found the one Malay character! Played by a fair-skinned Filipina (lol)! With no lines (lol)!
posted by cendawanita at 1:36 AM on August 21, 2018

OMG, cendawanita, those Singaporean dubs are the best! I should go watch them again (actually I should send them to my mom). They really cheer me up!

Sighing and shaking my head about the Filipina actor being the one Malay character. I read an article that the Singaporean actors were told not to use Singlish or their own accents.

I was visiting my family (which is why I was able to take my parents to CRA) and one night at dinner I noticed my young nephew was saying things in a Singaporean accent (like his grandma and great-aunt). He is a really impressive mimic! I laughed like hell when I realized what he was up to. Side note: I told my mom when my nephew grows up I seriously think he's going to look like Henry Golding.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:40 AM on August 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've read that in several east Asian countries it's proper etiquette to refuse the offer of food 3 times before accepting, so Peik Lin is brashly being polite when she finally accepts Nick's invitation to join them.

In Europe, protocol is to 1st address nobility as "Your Majesty/Highness/Grace ", then "sir/ma'am" unless told to do otherwise. Is it similar with east Asian nobility or is it proper to address them directly by their title as we see Rachel do with Princess Intan?
posted by brujita at 7:37 AM on August 22, 2018

If I'm not mistaken in English, the Malay royals (just like other parts of Malaysian formal society like parliament or judiciary; Singapore doesn't have any officially recognised royalty -- it was Johor territory before the British got it) they just follow the English royal court protocol for foreigners to use. There are 11 royal houses reflecting the pre-colonial kingdoms in Malaysia alone, what more Indonesia and parts of Malay Philippines or Brunei, and each of them has a different title system BUT it will also be attached to their first names so you can just call them by that. I haven't seen the movie yet (only out tomorrow!) but if she's straight-up saying 'princess' that's a very foreigner faux pas (baked in the script?) because if the royal is already using the English title then just use English court protocol but if the royal's name is actually Puteri (princess) Intan (because of how the naming and titling conventions are like their names are fully formally registered in the birth cert like so) then just call her Puteri Intan. Anyway I'm certain I'm getting the details wrong because protocols can differ and we don't have prince or princesses at federal level since it's a rotational post.
posted by cendawanita at 7:55 AM on August 22, 2018

(I don't mention Muslim Thailand even though there is at least 3 kingdoms because I believe modern Thailand does not recognise any of their claims or titles.)
posted by cendawanita at 7:57 AM on August 22, 2018

Rachel calls her Princess, not Princess Intan.
posted by brujita at 8:19 AM on August 22, 2018

¯\_(ツ)_/¯ not the worst thing to nitpick on tbh. it's just weird to my ears regardless. should've gone with how the English court does it.
posted by cendawanita at 8:25 AM on August 22, 2018

There's something neat in the film that reminded me, of all things, of The Wire [minorest of spoilers]. We meet Bubbles, who had a drug problem, and see him get to get cleaned up over a season or two. At the same time, we watch another character fall on harder and harder times that end in drugs. It felt like we were watching how Bubbles had gotten there to begin with, and also it was just this eternal story, that went around and around.

I felt like Nick and Rachel's story was the beginning, full of hopefulness and love. Michael and Astrid are in the middle of how difficult that life is, being where people think you don't belong and wondering whether it's worth it. And Eleanor Young is at the end (not of her life, just this arc) where she knows her life was hard, but believes it was worth it (husband too, presumably). And it feels like their story, too, just keeps looping around, as they recreate it for each generation.
posted by Margalo Epps at 9:57 PM on August 22, 2018 [5 favorites]

A couple more Singaporean views:
Crazy Rich Asians is one of our saddest moments by Pooja Nansi
Because the official state language associated with the Indian populace in Singapore is Tamil, many Chinese Singaporeans, like Kevin Kwan in his novel Crazy Rich Asians, refer incorrectly to the languages we speak, be it Tamil, Malayalam, Bengali, or Marathi, as “Indian.”

If our textbooks had told us that Indians, like the Chinese, are made up of diverse ethnic groups that come from 29 states and speak over 22 major languages, there might have existed a better understanding.

But instead, we continue to make do with one defining story that could not represent everyone.

So I understand all too well the exhilaration of finally seeing yourself in a story, when you haven’t seen yourself represented in mainstream culture at all.

That hard-won visceral feeling of being made visible, the swell in the heart that comes with being able to actually inhabit your body on screen, instead of just being an observer. That relief from the burden of having to explain yourself all the time.

Except now, imagine being an Indian or Malay child in Singapore. Imagine looking forward to seeing your city: your country being the stage and the center of a Hollywood movie.

@isabellelimsx: Setting aside the fact that the movie completely erases minorities, middle and working class people in Singapore, the representations of Chinese-ness in this film are seriously confused.

There are elements of Hakka, Peranakan, Cantonese, Hokkien, Northern Chinese culture but they’re indiscriminately combined to achieve what I can only imagine is some simulacra of Chinese-ness that is fundamentally unrecognisable to Chinese Singaporeans.

It mirrors the kind of imaginary project that Black Panther is—the construction of a fantastical land of liberation—except in this case...the land already exists. And real people live and have lived there...for centuries.

Imagine having your actual existence serve as stage for Asian-American revenge porn. Yeah, that’s why we’re mad. (Amongst many other reasons.)

posted by cendawanita at 10:41 AM on August 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

The most Malaysian review ever: I asked a co-worker what she thought and she said, "the food shots were good lah. But really meh, Singaporean food looked that good one."
posted by cendawanita at 4:09 AM on August 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed the film. Aside from being full of asians, it was pretty much a completely standard rom-com, but one that was done really well. It is interesting to see so many critiques. I suppose it is a burden that comes with trying to break down any barrier: people will be disappointed that you didn't go further and you're standing alone because no one bothers to criticize every other movie that is even more entrenched in the status quo. The curse of being important from a social perspective is being judged from that perspective, even if one movie couldn't possibly rectify the critiques coming from all directions. Most of the critics haven't thought about what the movie was, or how a good movie is made, just that it doesn't satisfy them in some way. To satisfy all the critics would take 100 or 1,000 movies. Hopefully those will get made, in part thanks to this one succeeding at being the one movie that it is.
posted by snofoam at 5:01 AM on August 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

Now that the movie for all it's being shot here is finally open here, Southeast Asians are currently hot on social media having yet another 'fight' about the food claims in this movie lol. But also Singaporeans are judging Nick's pronouncement that the best place for satay is that Newton Center place. Not to mention the various jokes about more Malays and Indians watching it than actually being in the movie.

Other bits:
Celebrating my Asian face and American spirit, at last (Jenn Fang):
Today, I recognize that my unique perspective shapes who I am — a 36-year-old Asian American woman and a proud advocate for the Asian American community. If my home can be neither quite America nor Asia, then I must build a community that embraces me as both Asian and American.

That’s why I chose to pursue undergraduate coursework in Asian American studies and why I went online to forge my own discourse, founding a long-running blog that has expanded the conversation about Asian American identity.

It’s also why “Crazy Rich Asians” is such a watershed to me. Since the arrival of America’s first Asian immigrants, we have not been the arbiters of our own narrative. Popular culture has drawn upon racial stereotypes to portray Asian Americans as strange, suspicious and hopelessly un-American, and we have lacked the power to combat those images with media that defines ourselves for ourselves.

One Way That Crazy Rich Asians Is a Step Backward by Mark Tseng-Putterman: Given the context, it’s ironic but not particularly surprising that Crazy Rich Asians at times embraces a message of white-Asian equivalence by distancing itself from the “wrong” kind of Asians. If the film puts Asian America in the spotlight, it does so for a very slim portion of that demographic. While the cast includes a mix of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean diaspora actors of various nationalities, besides Golding (who is of Iban descent) it effectively excludes South and Southeast Asians despite their deep presence in Singaporean society. Indeed, as many have pointed out, the only South Asians that viewers can glimpse are in the roles of servants and guards. The scene in which Rachel and Peik Lin drive up to the Youngs’ remote estate and are shocked by the sight of two turbaned, South Asian guards—armed with what appear to be bayonets, no less—seems a particularly apt metaphor for the brand of Asian American representation Crazy Rich Asians provides: one in which too many are left on the outside, looking in.

[...] The film’s glamorization of Chinese-Singaporean wealth is particularly troubling given the country’s own racial inequalities, which the Singaporean writer and activist Sangeetha Thanapal describes as a system of “Chinese Privilege.” To the extent that the movie’s almost comically decadent style is an attempt to satirize these privileges, such efforts are undermined by its script. Explaining the Young family’s old-money origins, Peik Lin tells Rachel that when Nick’s ancestors settled in Singapore in the 1800s, the country was nothing but “jungle and pig farmers.” The line is played for laughs, but its colonial mentality betrays the film’s inability to imagine Asian and Asian American grandeur beyond simply swapping Chinese for whites at the top of the racial hierarchy.

posted by cendawanita at 11:13 AM on August 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

So I was laughing at this Dee Kosh review of the movie, and cendawanita suggested I post it here. It's a pretty balanced and funny review by a Singaporean.
posted by aielen at 11:45 PM on August 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

I went to see it a second time on Saturday at 4. It wasn't sold out this time, but I'd say about 80% of the theater seemed pretty full. Nobody had to resort to the final four rows at the bottom but the top section was about full. So....hopefully the money train doesn't slow down too much.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:35 PM on August 25, 2018

I finally watched it! Dee Kosh's review wasn't wrong about how... Chinese everything was. It was like Singapore is the starter China for anglophones. I've already made my peace with the nonsensical representation (and just for the record it cracks me up that the other nice rich person other than Astrid is a Malay royal #localsociopoliticsjokes) that I was actually mostly giggling at how many Singaporean characters don't have Singaporean/Malaysian accents (including you, Henry Golding!! Even if you speaking Malay well enough to order satay makes you the minority in the larger society) which is even more obvious when they're interacting with obviously Singaporean actors. On that note, omw Pierre Png it's probably my fault for never realising that set of abs you have.

I did feel by the end of the movie I don't need to watch any more of the superwealthy because it was truly getting on my nerves. Anyway, congrats on getting the sequel! Maybe at least they can either work on their Singaporean accents or get more Australian actors involved because if you want to talk about that social class and their accents from where they have studied or lived, you're missing out on a key demographic.
posted by cendawanita at 10:31 PM on August 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

I was waiting for this: New Naratif's podcast on CRA with four Singaporeans - Kirsten Han, journalist, Ruby Thiagarajan of Mynah Magazine, Aisyah Amir of The Local Rebel and Yale-NUS undergraduate Faris Joraimi. It's a more academic discussion on Singapore's history and society and how it relates to the movie, or more accurately, they discuss the parts of the movie's Singapore that were clearly intended to resonate with American East Asians/Chinese and were strange to them as Southeast Asians. I'm only halfway through, but Peranakan keeps cropping up as a term, so here's a wiki link. They're what we call the Straits Chinese, who adopted Malay norms (as well as Anglo ones), and if there is Singaporean Chinese old money it would come from this community, but that would also mean their culture wouldn't be so mainland/American diaspora Chinese as the movie makes it.
posted by cendawanita at 9:39 AM on August 26, 2018

I loved the movie generally because it's a lovely funny movie (and my fangirling for Awkwafina is REAL.) But it had a serious flaw that still makes me so angry and sad. It's bad enough that white Americans still use the racist trope of the scary black bouncer/guard- the black man as a gorilla- for laughs. Then this film, which is supposed to be a victory for "all us asians", pulled the same goddamn thing with Indians. The delicate female protagonists are terrified of large Sikh men with beards and guns (who don't even get the grace to speak) in the jungle.... Fuck that noise. Don't pretend that was a commentary on class and race in Singapore. That was a clumsy echo of every scene where a naive white couple panics when they drive into Harlem or Compton or the "wrong" neighborhood in Chicago, without the Bonfire of the Vanities-esque followup. That was a bullshit gag leveraging racist thoughts that "brown people are scary" . You don't get credit for showing SEAsia diversity by pulling shit like that for an American audience already too willing to assume that a turbaned Sikh is a terrorist.

I don't care if the movie doesn't show/represent my kind of (South) Asian - I don't expect all films to do all things. I DO care if they stab me in the back on the way out. "Look! Us Asians can be charming, and funny and wealthy and educated and sexy! But just us, the light skinned pretty ones, not those brown guys, you're right, they're menacing lowlifes."
posted by BlueBlueElectricBlue at 9:04 PM on August 26, 2018 [12 favorites]

So....hopefully the money train doesn't slow down too much.

Almost no dropoff as ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ tops box office again
The romantic comedy kept its hold at No. 1, earning an estimated $25 million, after ticket sales slipped only 6% in its second weekend — a miniscule decline that’s almost unheard-of outside of holiday blockbusters.

A Forbes article notes that there, "were exactly 68 movies that have opened wide (or expanded) on at least 2,000 screens and then dropped 8% or less in their second wide-release weekend". It goes on to then say: " Of those 68 movies, just seven of them did not have the benefit of a second weekend which fell on a major holiday like Memorial Day, Thanksgiving or (as is the case with the vast majority of them) Christmas."

I've never even heard or seen a wide release movie dropping less than 25% after it's opening weekend.
posted by FJT at 8:11 AM on August 27, 2018

I went to see it over the weekend with a friend. We both enjoyed it, although my friend commented that most of the professors she knows (we both work for a university) tend to turn their nose up at fashion and wealth as frivolous and wouldn't be as invested in gaming the system using fashion as Rachel does. It was nice to see a straight-ahead rom com done so well as I haven't seen one in forever so I was ticked by things like the "changing clothes" romcom old chestnut. Akwafina was adorable, the men were delicious, delicious eye candy even though Colin actually had a lot more presence than Nick (who I think was a little underwritten, although the scene in the airplane was adorable) and I'll be on board to see any sequels that will no doubt be made.

I've been reading the discussion around the film with interest, as a person who lived in Singapore as an expat kid (and who is half-Filipino culturally). My experience there was a lot more multicultural than the film presents (which did feel a lot like "starter China" as cendawanita calls it). For whatever reason I don't have a strong memory of Singlish - presumably any speakers of it code-switched over to standard Singapore English when presented with a 12 year old white girl who may have been too self-absorbed to notice it around her anyway - but things popped a little more when the few actors who used it were on screen.

I have strong memories of the food, though. Boy, do I.
posted by PussKillian at 9:12 AM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Just wondering:
(a) is there such a thing as a "game theory professor,"
(b) is that actually related to economics or not?
(c) or are they two different things?

I have heard that Rachel is a "game theory professor" in the book, but I still haven't read that yet.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:06 PM on August 28, 2018

Economic theories that have changed us: game theory by Partha Gangopadhyay. Certain economists do specialize in game theory to explain financial/corporate decision-making, for sure.

In the books, IIRC, she's just described as an econ prof. (Nick is a history prof at NYU in the books, too).
posted by TwoStride at 1:44 PM on August 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

In the books, Rachel is described as specializing in economic development, not game theory (hence the quote about micro-lending in the first book).
posted by aielen at 2:19 AM on August 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

👎🏿 This film was just so bad, with such poor acting and such stereotypical and cliché actors/characters, that I’m left wondering if there is something wrong with me when I read all the rave reviews online.

Then I came across this guy’s opinion, which pretty much sums up exactly what I thought. I’m so glad I’m not alone:

[...]Nor do the performances elevate matters. Chu is petite and attractive and Golding incredibly good-looking, but both offer more posing than acting, and Yeoh’s stern, sour-faced mother figure is a cartoon villainous[...]

Of course, whatever the script problems one must ultimately lay blame for the movie’s defects at the feet of director Chu, whose previous efforts—a couple of “Step Up” movies, the “G.I. Joe” sequel and “Now You See Me 2,” along with some Justin Bieber documentaries—have sadly proven prophetic here. By indulging the frantic overplaying of most of the cast, he only accentuates the plot’s glaring weaknesses.

Given its groundbreaking aspects, one wishes that “Crazy Rich Asians” were better. But there are plenty of good movies, including romancesk, out there with Asian casts. You only have to be willing to read subtitles to enjoy them.

posted by Kwadeng at 4:19 AM on August 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

I was in tears after watching “Crazy Rich Asians” and I’m not alone by Clarissa Wei:
Of course, you don’t need to be Asian to love or get emotional over “Crazy Rich Asians.” “Crazy Rich Asians” is not a great movie just because there’s an all-Asian cast. It’s a great movie because it’s wonderfully produced. The script is dynamic, the cast has chemistry, the cinematory is engaging, and the music is fresh.

Yet there was a catharsis unique to this movie that I have never felt before. And that came with seeing characters that looked me or someone in my family projected on the big screen
Crazy Rich Asians Is the Love Letter to My People I Never Had a Chance to Write by CRA screenwriter Adele Lim:
"Write what you know" is the platitude most often leveled at writers. But in a world where the majority of lead characters are male and white and you're not, that's a constant challenge. I had to work doubly hard to make sure their lines sounded authentic (enough) or to have a handle on their drives and motivations. And if I did pull from my own experiences, I had to translate them through a fractured prism to make them applicable to a white guy with a strong jawline.

With Crazy Rich Asians, I had to do none of that. I felt these characters in my bones—they looked and acted like my family members or people I knew. Their voices were ones I grew up with. Their vices, predilections, and obsession with food and luxury handbags were details etched in my DNA.
posted by FJT at 11:08 AM on September 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

I would never begrudge Malaysians and Malaysian-raised minorities like Michelle Yeoh and Adele Lim for this movie, for the same reasons I've shared when it came to Singaporean representation: Malaysian Chinese and indigenous (like Ibans that Henry Golding comes from) also suffer from minimal representation in our local mainstream pop culture. That's why a lot of them try their luck in Hong Kong and Taiwan (and now China), and also UK/US/AUS. I have one friend doing quite well on US TV right now and she would never have gotten the same kind of break back home. Their casting I greet with much welcome, looking askance at my home industry. But! They're not the Singaporeans who've been trying to raise their concerns.
posted by cendawanita at 9:26 PM on September 1, 2018 [2 favorites]

Ditto for the food - i wish the outdoor shots had been as luciously shot as the food - and the casual racism (seriously, jungle and pig farms?) But my biggest beef with the film which i lovelovehatelove:

Nick is Wickham disguised as Darcy. He lies by omission and directly to Rachel for a long time to carry out his Common People fantasy, while she talks honestly to him. He takes the easy way out over and over until there's an ultimatum, and he's still protected from the consequences by the sacrifices of the women in his family. He flew her mom in on economy. He's a thoughtless jerk. Rachel deserves so much more.

The scene that made me choke up was when Rachel was broken hearted by the double blow of her father and Nick, qnd ran to her best friend and they took her in. The little girls tip-toeing in with a tray, the quiet understanding, the warmth.

And Michelle Yeoh's delivery of "you'll never be enough" ahhhhh, so scary!
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 3:42 AM on September 2, 2018 [7 favorites]

Just saw this with my sister & we had to pick a second theater for a show because the first one was almost full.

I really liked it, though I went in actively determined to give it the benefit of any doubt--ie, reminding myself not to gripe about inequality and extreme wealth. (This was a movie where the family who models themselves on the Trump bathroom aren't even really "rich.") But it was a good rom com, which Hollywood needs more of.

I loved Awkwafina in this. Her character provided much-needed comic relief with her unfilteredness, but when she saw that Rachel was in a really bad place, she immediately dialed it down.

That short hug when Rachel showed up at her place, after the wedding, just warmed my heart. And then when her mother arrived too. I didn't know for sure which way the movie was going at that point and both were just these bits of sincere affection on a small scale, snuck into the spectacle.
posted by mark k at 10:32 PM on September 2, 2018 [3 favorites]

Asian Male Sexuality, the Money Phallus, and Why Asian Americans Need to Stop Calling Crazy Rich Asians the Asian Black Panther
This is a pretty amazingly scathing review of the movie. I'm not sure I'd go as far as the author did, but its worth reading.
posted by destrius at 2:11 AM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Okay, I read the Phallus article, and there are parts I feel that are just flat out incorrect and have to reply.

They are eager to use Singapore as a proxy for themselves when it suits them, when they are just as happy to elevate or otherwise differentiate themselves from “FOBs” (fresh-off-the-boat), Asian people who are not from the right class, in the right job, etc. This has played out infuriatingly in the NYT’s viral #thisis2016 hashtag a couple of years ago.

Maybe it's my lack of being on Twitter, but I feel differently about this. When Asian descent folks point out the differences between first generation Asian immigrants (or overseas Asians) and Asian-Americans, the majority of time it's not because one group feels they are better than the other. It's mostly said in the presence of a white or Western audience to inform them that, yes, there are Asian descent people who have lived in America for a long time and often for many generations.

Are we so starved for representation that bad behavior not only passes for complexity, but is also championed for diversity in representation?

Well, this part sounds a lot like the same criticism leveled at Better Luck Tomorrow back when it was first released: That portraying Asian-American characters with bad traits is a bad representation of Asians. I'm just going to point to what Ebert said about this. (Got that from Fanfare's BLT post, btw)

And I guess to get a little more ranty, I can understand someone that liked the film and trying to defend it by saying it was good because it has complex characters. There's an association in art that complexity = good. But I'm saying it's okay for this movie to use broad brushstrokes to define characters (i.e., to have simple characters). First, it works in film to use shortcuts to define characters and condense things down. Second, it also works because some genres, like rom com, already have existing tropes and conventions in place as well that creators can choose to use or play around with.

Constance Wu’s googly eyes irritated me — her moments of cutesy-ness and self-infantilizing and fawning feeling like some subconscious capitulation to the trope of what a lovable Asian girl is. (Does anyone know of an Economics professor who behaves like this?)

Okay, now the author is just being kind of a jerk. Wu's cute moments are mostly when she's with her beau or her close friends. I think it's natural that people act differently in a professional context and when they're with close friends and family. And it's kind of weird to say how an econ professor should act, especially since it's such a male dominated fields.
posted by FJT at 11:27 AM on September 5, 2018 [6 favorites]

I think it's natural that people act differently in a professional context and when they're with close friends and family.

posted by joyceanmachine at 11:33 AM on September 5, 2018 [9 favorites]

Eddie Huang also criticized the characterization of Constance Wu's role in Fresh off the Boat (where she plays a suburban mom), calling her "exoticized." This is a woman who's played the female lead in two groundbreaking depictions of Asian Americans on screen, who kind of kicks ass in both of them, and who has been EXTREMELY outspoken on issues of race in Hollywood. Maybe the problem is not Constance Wu but the fact that internalized racism leads us to see an Asian woman and think, cute, exotic, infantilized, no matter WHAT she's doing?
posted by sunset in snow country at 11:44 AM on September 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

I will say, though, that every time I hear someone compare CRA to Black Panther, I have to actively keep my eyes from rolling into the back of my head.

Like, I enjoyed CRA a lot, and both CRA and Black Panther are genre films, but my God, Black Panther is a deeper, better movie in every single dimension. If nothing else, compare how they deal with colonialism -- that's the central theme of Black Panther, with Erik (become the oppressor) and T'Challa (isolate yourself from the oppressor) and Nakia (liberate subjugated peoples no matter who is doing the oppressing) being presented as a spectrum of responses and nuances and experiences that reflect real divisions that people grapple with.

CRA's response to colonialism is, lol, jungles and monkeys and jokes about bags and using scary brown men stationed at the front to recreate scenes from British colonialism, but with ethnic Han Chinese in the place of white people.

posted by joyceanmachine at 11:45 AM on September 5, 2018 [6 favorites]

i have been sitting on that Asian Male Sexuality article because I was also a bit, "hmmm" with where a few of the arguments landed. On the other hand, I've been tardy and should've shared this earlier: Two Truths and a Lie: How Crazy Rich Asians Warps Reality, and Why Critiquing It Matters

Reading defenses of the film, it seems that they have all missed something crucial about the necessary, collective critique that we see coming out of Singapore. The analytical discourse can be summed up into one reasonable criticism: that if Crazy Rich Asians is really that much of a win for Asian representation as it has marketed itself to be, then it should represent more kinds of Asians in more kinds of roles. Defenders of the film have misinterpreted and perhaps even purposely misconstrued this critique, twisting it into a far-flung, unreasonable ultimatum: that Crazy Rich Asians should represent every truth and every reality, or else it cannot claim to represent the truth and reality of any Asians at all. With this straw man in place, defenders of Crazy Rich Asians take a position that is difficult to argue against, given Hollywood’s long history of yellowface. According to them, the film is still worthwhile because it depicts an Asian experience, told by an Asian person, performed by an Asian cast, and with a modicum of truth. It may not ring true for all Singaporeans, but at least it’s somewhat true.

Crazy Rich Asians’ defenders forget here that when they hastily trot out the “some truth” argument, there is another side to this which they fail to acknowledge: if there is only some truth to a story, then there must also be some falsehood to complete the tale. When a story holds just a kernel of truth, it has to fill up the rest of that space with lies. So why do the defenders of problematic fictions only ever focus on the small measure of authenticity floating in a sea of distorted claims? Does one truth — the fact of predominantly East Asian wealth and success in Singapore — justify the telling of an egregious lie: that brown Asians in Singapore exist only as scenery and the help?

What we see, then, is that this is not really a debate over authenticity, after all. Because, remember — alongside the debate have been months of reported speculation and interviews: from Vogue, Town & Country, and The Smart Local, all with questions of just what is real about this movie, and what is made up. Is it based on Kevin Kwan’s life story? (Yes and no — it is based on his mother’s stories about his wealthier family members in Singapore.) Is there really a butterfly garden in Changi Airport? (Yes.) Are there actual mansions perched in the rainforest? (No.) The interest from all sides about whether the movie is true to life reveals that the ongoing battle over Crazy Rich Asians’ representation of Singapore onscreen is actually one about veracity. Of truthfulness. Realism, authenticity, and credibility are all smaller concepts constellating around the crux of the matter: whether Crazy Rich Asians actually represents the truth. But while some people are dead-set on insisting that Crazy Rich Asians is true enough, the vital questions that writers and activists like Nansi, Han, and Thanapal are entreating us to ask are: Whose truth? How true? How untrue? Whom does this truth-telling serve? And who is affected by the lies?

posted by cendawanita at 1:58 PM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Maybe it's my lack of being on Twitter, but I feel differently about this. When Asian descent folks point out the differences between first generation Asian immigrants (or overseas Asians) and Asian-Americans, the majority of time it's not because one group feels they are better than the other. It's mostly said in the presence of a white or Western audience to inform them that, yes, there are Asian descent people who have lived in America for a long time and often for many generations.

Eh, I've had Asian-Americans insult me by calling me a fob or fobby. (No white people around, btw.)
This IS a thing. "You're such a fob", "Stop acting so fobby", "Ew your shoes/thing-you-said/mannerism/whatever is so fobby", and on and on.

I'm not on Twitter either, but I don't need Twitter when I have my own lived experiences.

And sometimes when you add the presence of white people to the mix it can get more gross (as the Asian-American can then attempt to signal (through speech, body language, etc) that they aren't like that other Asian/fob-Asian and are more "white" and more like that white person - basically trying to ingratiate themselves with the white person and distance themselves from the "fobby" person). But it's kinda gross enough already even if you don't have any white person present.

(I am not saying all Asian-Americans are like this - but I am telling you that this is a thing. This does happen. This kind of stuff has happened to me, and I'm not the only one.)
posted by aielen at 2:07 PM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

This IS a thing.

I'm sorry. Y'know, I recognize that and I tried to be careful as not to exclude other experiences. In retrospect, I should have emphasized that this is still based on my own limited experience. Also, I mention twitter only because every one of the author's examples from that paragraph seems to be lifted from there.

And going back to those hashtags, I can also kind of see those tweets as something they may have learned to say a long time ago to preemptively defend themselves. About a decade ago I worked in a customer service center where we as customer reps were encouraged to be welcoming and use our names. I was using my Asian name at the time. Well, some customers who called in didn't feel exactly welcome when they spoke to me. Sometimes right after I said my Asian name, American callers would reply with this tone of exasperated contempt, "I'm not calling China, am I?" As if calling China and talking to non-American was some kind of terrible punishment. Even though I would reassure them that, "Sir/ma'am, our call center was located right here in sunny California", it still made the call a little toxic right off the bat (This was also way before Trump too). Yes, handling customer complaints is just stressful on it's own, but this just made things worse. Eventually I got worn down and just decided to use my English name. Yeah, I felt bad about it, like I was giving up. But, I also never ever received another shitty contemptuous accusation from an American caller that they were talking to a Chinese person in China.

I'm definitely not excusing times when Asian-Americans would mock someone's accent, broken English, culture or even purposefully shame someone for being an immigrant. But I can see why someone would more readily use their English name or say they were born in the US as not necessarily trying to elevate themselves over other Asians, but just because they're tired of harassment they get for it.
posted by FJT at 3:10 PM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Finally saw this, and it was the fun rom-com I was hoping for. I loved the Mahjong scene (and even more so now that I've read the Angry Asian Man blog post above so I know what was going on in the game as well as the conversation) - "all your family's future success will be because of my low-class self making this choice" was a wonderful power reversal.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:16 AM on September 9, 2018 [2 favorites]

i have to chime in on this correction, because this mistake is pretty much the main reason why this movie was even made the way it did: southeast asian chinese ARE southeast asian. yes, they are of east asian descent, but they ARE southeast asian. and thus, there were southeast asian actors, Michelle Yeoh being one of them, and Henry Golding, who is however of indigenous descent with not a lick of chinese blood that even he is aware of, as well as the other Singaporean actors, including Tan Kheng Kua who was Rachel's mum, and Pierre Png, who was Astrid's husband. like, i'm just going to be here until the cows come home belabouring that point. Singapore is not a China for anglophones. And within that southeast asian polity, other races especially in a specifically multiracial country like Singapore that is however chinese-dominated, and within that all the various privilege issues, would like to see themselves represented too.

anyway, i'm glad this movie is playing as well as it should be in the intended audience. i can't help but recall within the american asian population there are also those of south asian descent, pacific islander descent, and those indigenous to southeast asia, and the filmmakers just absolutely whiffed the ball because if you could find more perfect foreign counterpart countries to project your ideals than Singapore and Malaysia, then you had to invent them.
posted by cendawanita at 8:54 AM on September 10, 2018 [5 favorites]

Kwame Anthony Appiah writes about Singapore, in relation to the movie, in case you haven't seen it: Crazy Rich Identities:

At independence, the ruling party decided that all citizens would be categorized, for government purposes, into one of four “racial” groups: Chinese, Malay, Indian, or Other, in what came to be called the CMIO system. Choosing a language of government that was associated with any of the major groups would have significantly disadvantaged the other two major groups. So the government made the same decision that had been made in many other parts of the former British and French empires in order to avoid ethnic conflict: It stuck with the colonial language as the official language of government. Lee also calculated that being Anglophone would help Singapore enlarge its role in global trade, the lifeblood of a port city.

At the same time, the government adopted the following complex of policies. Malay was designated as the national language, recognizing the status of Malays as the indigenous people of the region. The national anthem is in Malay, as are the parade commands of the Singaporean armed forces. All citizens would learn English in school. If you were Chinese or Indian, you would also learn Mandarin or Tamil, respectively. (More than half of the island’s Indians were of Tamil-speaking ancestry.) If you were Malay, you would study Malay. Everyone had to be at least bilingual, with your second language to be determined by your ethnic origin. And if you ever felt that you had been discriminated against or derogated because of your origins, the government had your back.

[...] If you’re an advocate for ethnic minorities, continually battling for every advance, Singapore’s proactive approach can look like a dream come true—crazy woke. But we should be careful what we wish for. Here’s the critical difference: Singapore’s program of ethnic management isn’t about accommodation; it’s closer to entrenchment. Parents aren’t safeguarding the transmission of cultural identities; the state is. It’s almost as if UnidosUS, the NAACP, the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations, and the like were state-run enterprises. And when identity politics becomes a matter of statecraft, it takes on some rather odd features.

Take bilingual-education policy, which has generally grown more stringent over the decades. It’s not an option, as it is in the United States. It’s compulsory; you have to learn a language associated with your ethnic group. But which? For most of Singapore’s history, even non-Tamil Indians (about 48 percent) had to learn Tamil, which typically left them unable to communicate with grandparents who might speak only Hindi.

Then there’s the fact that the ethnic Chinese were taught Mandarin as their “mother tongue.” In fact, the Chinese immigrants who came to Singapore over the centuries spoke Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese, Hakka, and Hainanese; only 2 percent spoke Mandarin as a first language. To go by the numbers, it’s a little as if the United States had required Latino kids to learn Portuguese. Lee Kuan Yew himself didn’t learn Mandarin until he was in his 30s, but he evidently thought that Singapore’s Chinese majority could use some unification, and blithely dismissed their actual mother tongues as mere “dialects.” (Like a lot of American parents today, he figured that knowing Mandarin would have practical advantages, too.)

The implicit assumption that ethnicity is unitary also runs up against the fact that people sometimes marry across the CMIO lines. Their children have a decision to make—as they do on Racial Harmony Day, when school kids are supposed to wear traditional garments that reflect their heritage. Meanwhile, the one distinctively Singaporean language—the English Malay Chinese Tamil creole called “Singlish”—has been subject to official disapproval. In short, it’s not the language you or your ancestors actually spoke but the identity the state has settled on for you that determines which language is yours. There’s no denying that the CMIO system reflected existing ideas about ethnic identity in Singapore: If it hadn’t, it would not have worked at all. But it entailed a radical simplification of a highly complex ethno-linguistic reality.

And by Melissa Borja, Crazy Rich Christian Asians. (previous post on mefi about Singapore evangelical Christianity) - this satirical dimension in the novel definitely didn't quite come through.
posted by cendawanita at 1:39 AM on September 13, 2018 [5 favorites]

(it was more than a little odd that it was the grandmother Young who spoke Mandarin and Eleanor who spoke Cantonese. It should've been the other way around... if that kind of rich old Singaporean family spoke Cantonese in the first place.)
posted by cendawanita at 1:44 AM on September 13, 2018

Reading about the meaning of the Mahjong scene was fascinating. Are there other things I might have missed?
posted by grouse at 5:29 PM on September 16, 2018

PSA: Awkwafina is hosting the October 6th episode of Saturday Night Live!
posted by bluecore at 1:18 PM on September 27, 2018

I hope Rachel remembered to bring her mother's Tupperware containers back from Singapore.
posted by orange swan at 2:43 PM on January 20, 2019 [8 favorites]

It's still very much a story about women -- it's Eleanor's and Rachel's story

I finally saw this movie, and my apologies for necroposting - but yes. This is actually why I loved it so much, I think - because it's only partially a rom-com, it's about relationships between women and there happens to be attractive men in it, but all of the emotional beats are between women. Eleanor and Rachel, yes, but also Astrid and Rachel, and Rachel and her mom, and even Eleanor and Ah-ma.

I also strongly disagree with the Phallus article that Rachel's win is a win for individualism. It's clearly a win for a kind of blended collectivism - because she only says yes once she sees that the ring is Eleanor's- essentially, once she sees that it is possible to live with his family in some form of acceptance.

Similarly, the critique of Bernard and Kitty also falls flat - its existence is not to have weird sexual dynamics or comedic humor but rather to show family power - their relationship was engineered by a one-line sentence from Eleanor.
posted by corb at 6:42 PM on May 12, 2022 [2 favorites]

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