A romantic comedy in form and a heartwarming tale of culture in spirit, “Crazy Rich Asians” transfixed an audience of Hope students for two hours on Friday, Nov. 30. The 2018 SK Global Entertainment film made waves with its entirely Asian cast and emphasis on the life of Eastern high-roller culture. The Student Activities Committee (SAC) and Hope’s Asian Perspective Association (HAPA) worked together to pack the Schaap Auditorium with students who enjoy Chinese culture, romantic comedies or both. With a discussion held afterward to celebrate and unpack the movie, students surely had quite a bit to process and discuss.
The movie, adapted from the 2013 Kevin Kwan novel, centers around Rachel Chu, not Rachel Chu of the Beijing noodle company or Rachel Chu of the Taiwanese plastics company nor Rachel Chu of any “comfortable” lifestyle. Why do I make this emphasis? Because this immediately puts her on the chopping block for the family of her boyfriend Nick Young. The Young family are the lavish owners of the Young Corporation, a stand-in for the many prosperous Chinese companies on the rise in Asia. They have dozens of houses, finance their own movies, rent (buy?) enormous renovated barges for bachelor parties and have tigers stuffed for decoration in their foyers.
Rachel, who comes from a single-mother background and has fought tooth-and-claw to become an economics professor, does not measure up in their eyes. Thus, she is fighting to uphold social norms and defend her honor the moment she sets foot in Singapore for the wedding of Nick’s best friend. A colorful cast of characters is introduced, including (but not limited to) the “rainbow sheep of the family,” Oliver, the intimidating but everinformed mother, Eleanor, loudand-proud Peik Lin and the thoughtful sister, Astrid. As Rachel, the AsianAmerican foreigner, struggles to adapt to the glamorous lifestyle Nick inhabits, he fights his own battle of familial piety and selfdetermination. While the film is indeed a surreal and fantastical representation of how traditional Chinese values play out in the real world, the film doesn’t take itself so seriously that it feels overtly insulting or misinformed. Indeed with Americanborn Chinese director Jon Chu behind the camera, every moment of the story embraces a heavy concept in limited time. The Friday screening didn’t come without excitement and pre-developed interest.
The film made waves during its summer premiere, opening strong and with rave reviews across the country. As of the time of this writing, it has grossed about $238 million, well surpassing its budget of $30 million as well as the earnings of any other romantic comedy in a decade. With a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a sequel in the works, there was much to look forward to at the showing. After the film, HAPA members distributed homemade bubble tea as president Grace Charnesky led an open discussion. The struggles of Asian representation in media were covered, as were topics of the struggles of maintaining serious and sincere family relationships in the face of enormous wealth, cultural differences, the struggles of raising a child in a singleparent household and favorite/ least favorite characters. The movie is available on DVD and digital, and a great time is guaranteed whether it is your first time seeing it or your eighth.