October 17, 2018

MOVIES: "CRAZY RICH ASIANS"




The wildly popular movie "Crazy Rich Asians," from the novel by Kevin Kwan, is rated PG-13, but it's an almost G-rated, old-fashioned romance. (Some of my Asian friends are puzzled by its popularity since it's a sweet little movie, but not FANTASTIC. However, I, white friend, get it. I keep reminding them: This is a HOLLYWOOD film with an ALL-ASIAN CAST.)  Constance Wu (from TV's "Fresh Off the Boat") plays Rachel, a young, self-made professor of Economics at NYU. Her boyfriend is Nick (Henry Golding) who comes from one of the richest families in Singapore (well, actually, as developers they BUILT Singapore)--the only catch is, Rachel has no idea who he really is or who his family is. Nick invites her to a wedding in Singapore and she finds out--en route--what she's walking into.

Immediately, there's a showdown with the grand-dame and matriarch of the family, Eleanor (an aging-beautifully, beautifully-aging Michelle Yeoh), who makes no secret of her disdain for her son's choice of a girlfriend. Rachel is from the wrong class. Rachel is from the wrong part of the world. Rachel will never be one of them. Rachel will marry her son over her dead body.

As she's immersed in the opulence of, well, how crazy rich Asians live and party in The Lion City--Rachel learns who her friends and foes are. Just when it seems Nick's mother is going to accept her, Eleanor draws her close ONLY to be able to rub salt into the wound better. But Rachel is a "fighter" and gives Mom a run for her mah-jong money. Is Mom just playing a game, testing her, or is it for keeps that Rachel will never measure up?

Crazy Rich Asians is a fun, visually-appealing, moderately paced and restrained romantic comedy (the comedy is more surrounding our leading man and leading lady than the pair themselves). The fact that marriage is more than just love between two people is writ large here. The tension seems to be between the old guard, the elder generation who believe in having a big say in their adult children's life-decisions AND passionate young love that can nonetheless be worthy love. But is it?

The dialogue made me think that--despite perhaps even the writers being aware--it's also about dueling philosophies beyond the institution of marriage. That being said, Mom is concerned that "families don't just happen, one has to put family first." She is concerned about "building things that last" and not simply "seeking one's own happiness." Not bad ideas, those. But I think this outlook can be blended with a son or daughter seeking out and choosing their own suitable spouse. This spouse might have to work harder to "fit in," but it can still have the stability of an "arranged" type of marriage--but at the same time, be a marriage of the heart.

OTHER STUFF:

--The funnies are truly funny: "Eat up! There's starving children in America!"