Crazy Rich Asians broke all sorts of records. It was the first American-made film to feature an all-Asian cast. In the US alone, it pulled in over $175 million dollars–and only cost $30 million to produce. It has a 91% positive score on Rotten Tomatoes and received praise from a diverse range of audience that includes Asian-Americans, Whites, Blacks, Hispanics–and just about everyone. With such glowing praise and rave reviews, I just had to check out the movie for myself.
………and I did not like Crazy Rich Asians (nor did my Chinese husband).
For me to make such a point-blank statement is confrontational, and maybe some will think I’m going to turn this into a race issue; but actually I disliked the film for many reasons, most of which have nothing to do with race.
There is no chemistry between the male and female lead
This is my biggest gripe with the film.
So the movie is about an Asian guy who is son and heir to the wealthiest family in Singapore. He brings his Chinese-American girlfriend to Singapore to tell his entire family he wants to marry her, but is met with resistance.
This guy is willing to give up his fortune and break up his family for a chick–but even by the end of the movie, I couldn’t feel the love that fueled this motivation. There is no chemistry between the characters, much less the actors on the big screen. This is a rom-com without the rom.
The jokes are terrible
One of the jokes is two girls, one cup of noodles. I think that’s all I really need to say.
The main guy isn’t full Asian, and he’s not even half Chinese
This makes me have flashbacks to the film version of ‘memoirs of a Geisha,’ where Gong Li and Zhang Zi Yi (Chinese actresses) pretended to be Japanese because, you know, all Asians are the same. For some reason, in this movie, most audiences are happy to pretend the half-Asian lead (a half-Malay, half-British) actor is Chinese–and this is ok?
This didn’t bother my husband, but it really bothered me. The entire movie’s contention revolves around the MIL not wanting a Chinese-American in the family… when in actuality, her son (the actor) isn’t even Chinese! (he’s not even Chinese-Malay… he’s from a minority tribe).
I’m half-Asian and this just aggravated me. As someone who is also half-Asian, I do not cheer for Henry Golding. I don’t want Henry Golding to pretend to be Chinese. Is a full Asian man still not sexy enough to play the lead in a movie?
Cultural “mistakes” are blown out of proportion and are simply unrealistic
Rachel, the protagonist, is “poor” compared to her boyfriend’s mega wealthy family in Singapore. This movie highlights not only her struggle in a “classist” sense, but also in terms of ethnicity and identity. As the MIL and even Rachel’s mother point out on many occasions, she’s Chinese on the outside and American on the inside–or, as her friend calls her, a banana.
I get it. Asian Americans are different from those on the mainland, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and Asia in general. But this movie just goes too far.
Take the scene where Rachel first meets potential MIL. It’s her first time meeting MIL at a super swank party in Singapore’s richest neighborhood. As soon as Rachel meets MIL, she rushes her with a hug and giggles about how excited she is to meet her.
First, anyone with common sense (even, gasp, a white girl), would not jump up to hug their uber wealthy mother in law-to-be with a gleeful shout. That’s like running up to the queen of England and rushing her with a hug. Or the empress of Japan. You just don’t do it.
Then, immediately after saying “excited to meet you,” Rachel explains her entire life story. Her father left them when they were young. Her mother moved to the US without a penny to her name. Her mother worked hard to give her the American dream. Despite their poor upbringing, Rachel said, she picked herself up by the bootstraps and succeeded–all thanks to her single mom.
If I said this to my husband’s mother after introducing myself, I probably wouldn’t be married to my current husband. In Asia, family background matters a lot. And come on, anyone with common sense isn’t going to explain the financial crises of your family to their potential mother in law minutes upon first meeting them.
I understand why they crafted this scene. The film wanted to highlight the contrast of “American Rachel” and “Chinese MIL,” but it was overkill. Rachel wasn’t lacking in cultural graces–she was lacking in common sense.
This is a movie made for Asian Americans
This movie was released in China and it bombed. It bombed hard. No one gave a shit. Aquaman killed it in revenue.
This movie was not made for Asians–it was made for Rachel. It was made for Asian Americans. And that’s totally ok.
My Asian American friends shed tears watching this movie–not because it was moving, but because they finally felt represented. Seeing a Hollywood film with an all Asian cast is something to applaud for, and I think for them, they finally felt they had achieved something they waited their whole lives to see.
I did not have the same reaction. For personal reasons, I don’t identify with the identity of being Asian American, and maybe that’s the core reason. Perhaps it’s because I sympathize more with the MIL and Chinese side of the family, and I think Rachel is ridiculous. Or maybe I just didn’t like the movie.
Still, there are many areas about this film I just have to praise:
- An all Asian cast in a Hollywood movie is a monumental achievement we should celebrate
- The music is good–great to hear Chinese songs in a movie theater
- Singapore is beautiful in the movie
- Cinematography is quite good
To be fair, I’ve heard the books are much better and the writer’s motive is more satirical than anything–but the movie came out flat for me.
Have you seen the movie? What do you think?