When I first heard about the movie, Crazy Rich Asians, my first reaction was skepticism. I thought, “Here we go again, another way for Hollywood to exploit an ethnic minority demographic.” Queue the stereotypical Asian accents and heavy use of chopsticks and decorative origami.
However, after watching the movie and taking a closer look, I realized that I was sorely mistaken. Crazy Rich Asians is actually quite accurate in its representation of Asian culture.
From its cast to its writers, to its director, the film was made entirely by Asians. It’s a movie about Asians made by Asians and that’s apparent from the beginning. If and (hopefully after you read this article) when you watch the film, some scenes I recommend looking out for are the dumpling making and the mahjong playing scenes. The authenticity in these scenes, in particular, can be felt from every shot.
The film is a romantic comedy about an Asian American woman named Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), who goes to Singapore with her boyfriend, Nick Young, for a wedding, only to find out that he is the heir to a very wealthy family. When she discovers that Young’s family is practically royalty she must navigate the treacherous waters of a rich and prestigious family, where money and public face mean everything.
This film captures the Asian perspective perfectly and contrasts Asian Americans against those who are born and raised in an Asian country. Very few films have successfully captured the glaring differences between the two subcultures in the past, but Crazy Rich Asians does so exquisitely.
Unlike other films that portray Asian actors speaking in a stereotypical ‘Asian’ accent, this film showed a multitude of Asians speaking perfect English. The film’s writers subtly address this when Rachel first meets Ken Jeong’s character, who pretends to speak in an Asian accent before revealing that he’s joking.
The film portrayed the Asian American best through its plot. Chu is an Asian American and the film captures how despite being Chinese, she is distinctively different from the people who were born and raised in Singapore. Chu strongly portrays her values throughout the film, following her own passions instead of the collectivistic nature that is the norm in Singapore, which is family above all.
In this way, the film effectively circumvented the Asian stereotype of Hollywood’s past in a natural way that lined up perfectly with the central conflict of the film.
Ultimately, what makes the film so great is its specificity. It focuses on the conflict of an Asian American struggling to fit in with a crazy rich family from Singapore. The film perfectly captures both cultures in a way that can open a new world to someone previously unfamiliar with either of the two. It also effectively develops a subplot that deals with real human emotion, such as the feelings of not being enough and falling in love.
Because the story was told in such an authentic way, it created a universal specificity that is the hallmark of any great movie. Movies that can immerse you in a world different from your own, but make you empathize with them nonetheless are the ones that deserve a watch. Crazy Rich Asians is not just a movie about Asians for Asians, but a movie that can provide insight into Asian culture for any race of human being.