I finally watched Crazy Rich Asians, a few quick thoughts:
Overall, a decent rom com. Although, I’m not really a fan of rom coms. And the story itself is fairly boilerplate. But well executed.
Seeing an all Asian cast didn’t really excite me like I thought it would. Maybe it’s because I grew up on HK films, full of Asians, but were much better films.
I don’t really get how this movie increases Asian-American representation that much. There was only one Asian-American character (who was an econ professor, aka model minority type). Everyone else was a Crazy Rich Chinese Singaporean. Or Asian men with sexy abs. Let’s not kid ourselves here: the percentage of Asian-American men with a six pack is about the same as White American men with a six pack: very, very few. So, basically, we now have a fuller picture of the Asian 1%.
By the way, where were all the brown Singaporeans la? Awkwafina was pretty funny. But did we really need Ken Jeong in there?
I liked how the story dealt with the Asian-American v. Asian dichotomy, but from the POV of Asian-Americans not being embraced by Asians. That’s a real thing. Guys, please don’t send me “back” to China; not only because I was born here, but because they won’t accept me there either. But of course, we Asian-Americans have also been known to otherize Asians as well.
I liked the use of Asian values and themes, like the ending was sorta about personal happiness (as expected), but it was also about sacrifice and filial piety, perhaps moreso? E.g., that last mahjong scene paired with the ring used at the final proposal illustrated these themes perfectly — it was ultimately about individuals sacrificing personal happiness for love and family. And in general, a lot of themes of shame, belonging, love of eating, elders, etc. that were implicit to the story.
I appreciated how much of the story was told primarily from the women’s perspective (although, aren’t most rom coms?). The mother-in-law v. daughter-in-law tension was good and made many Asian-American wives I know squirm. That tension is probably the basis for about half of all Asian dramas. Because it’s a real thing. The movie also ends with all the Asian women willingly sacrificing for their Asian men. Because that’s a real thing too. Although I suspect that’s not unique to Asians. But I’m convicted: I need to sacrifice more often for my wife.
I was excited when the Singaporeans were in a Bible study together! But then it became an Asian gossip sesh. How embarrassing!
That rendition of “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” by Kina Grannis was…wow. Arresting.
In general, a decent movie, not just “for an Asian-American film”, but on it’s own merits as a romantic comedy. On one hand, I get that this film is huge because this wasn’t some indie Asian-American film that finally got picked up by a big studio; it was funded by a big studio from the get go. Also, it was unapologetically Asian, with some but not too much explanation; with all the cultural assumptions implicit in the story, Asians certainly understood the movie at a deeper level than non-Asians did. And even though I wouldn’t say this is our Black Panther, I’m ok with that; not every film like this has to bear that kind of weight (What would an Asian-American Black Panther look like anyway? Returning to an honorable homeland where we’re good at martial arts, math, and technology? Wait a minute…)
On the other hand, how much do we need Hollywood and mainstream society’s validation? I guess better than not having it. But I also find Hollywood less and less relevant culturally; movies just aren’t these national cultural moments like they used to be; entertainment is so splintered these days: movie-watching continues to give way the influence of TV, Netflix, or YouTube. And was this really “our story” when it was more about the Asian 1% than people like me? More than others, I suppose.
A conflicted review, but overall, I’d give the movie a thumb up.