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Crazy Rich Asians: Cosmopolitan Film but Tacky Title

Crazy Rich Asians. The title is tacky, but the actual movie is both heartwarming and cosmopolitan. After all, it takes place in Singapore!

Cathy Yee
Cathy Yee
July 28, 2021
5 / 5
5 / 5

There may be a couple of spoilers in here, so beware. The movie premiered on August 15, 2018. Mainly I talk about themes, characters, and sappy feelings (I'm not the only one). But if you want to watch this movie fresh, then maybe don’t read this review yet. Also, pardon any colloquialisms or incomplete sentences. I will just speak from my heart. (This post was originally posted at an early screening in 2018, now with some edits.)

Title and Themes

The first thing about this movie is to disregard the title. It’s terrible — Crazy Rich Asians is a tacky name. It misrepresents the whole vibe of the story. The title conveys a superficial movie that is geared only towards Asian people, focused only on materialistic wealth. Although the film does feature wealth, it's not the heart and core of the film. I know the movie was based on the book by Kevin Kwan , but I was worried it would drive people away with such a shallow title! This is such a wholesome story for everyone, with themes that encompass feeling incompetent, remembering to believe in yourself, the complicated male ego (and, well, all egos), the Cinderella story, and standing up for your values. There was honestly just so much heart, culture, and significance that went into this story. It just radiated an unexpected amount of truth for a little rom-com film.

This is definitely one of my favorite movies of all time. Now, this may sound a bit obvious or too easy (because I'm Asian?). And maybe it is, but for good reason. One may think — you only like the movie because it has an all-Asian cast. And yes. Probably, definitely yes. Maybe I was starving for something like this my whole entire life. Maybe I’ve never seen a story with so many people whom I can identify with — women and men, kind aunties, weird uncles, wise popo’s, and silly best friends who for the first time look like the ones whom I personally know! It’s funny that white people have this luxury with every single movie, so maybe it seems a bit strange that my eyes were dripping with emotion simply from seeing a movie full of my people speaking English. Because honestly, this is the only one I’ve seen in 1.5 decades.

Cantonese and Significance

Maybe this is the first time in my life where I light up at the sound of Cantonese being spoken next to English, without needing to brace myself to be the butt end of a joke. This may be the first time Chinese people are shown in an American movie in a wholesome and heartwarming way. This is a story where all these innately human themes come together in a way that is just so personal and perfect as if the universe made this story just to hug my heart. Again, the title gives a silly impression, but this is one of my favorite movies (I've watched it 7 times by now).

Characters and Cast

I love how rich all the characters are (as in authentically rich, not monetarily wealthy). I’m so proud that the film featured the Asian men as not just hot, sexy, and strong, but also courageous, loving, and human.

I adore the women in the film!!!! And I love how all the Asian women are so radiant and vulnerable in different ways! This is true to real life, but I’ve never in my entire life seen this reflected so clearly like a mirror held up to reality.

The main character and heroine Rachel (Constance Wu) is smart, relatable, and cool — as an NYU professor of economic game theory who comes from humble and plebian roots. Then there’s gorgeous and kind-hearted Astrid (Gemma Chan), who to me, represents the "ideal" woman. She’s compassionate, beautiful, and grounded. She bends over backward trying to protect her husband’s ego, but he ends up cheating on her anyway due to his own insecurity.

The best friend Goh Peik Lin (Awkwafina) is probably the most relatable BFF character I’ve ever seen. She is undeniably hilarious and true. Eleanor Young (Michelle Yeoh) is the distinguished mother-in-law figure. Michelle did a fantastic job playing the arrogant and bitter mother who comes to learn some empathy. Her subtle dismissive facial expressions were spot on.

Model Minority vs Humbleness

I was also worried that the film title "Crazy Rich Asians" would give the Asian model minority myth a shove in the wrong direction. However, I was grateful that the movie showed a decent amount of humbleness in addition to the expected great wealth and excess as implied by the title. The characters explored Singapore street food, which is super affordable in price but rich in deliciousness, and I appreciated how the prosperous family was grounded in dumpling making and respect for nature even when surrounded by excess wealth.

I have a special place in my heart for Singapore, having studied abroad there. This movie probably pulled all of my heartstrings. I think it’s kind of weird to tear up for 70% of a romantic comedy, but it happened. And I really appreciate my friend for patting me on the back and saying “there there” as I wiped away tears and snot throughout (hey, the glands are all connected). This movie was honestly the best. And maybe a lot of this was personal. But isn’t that how stories are supposed to be?

The only thing that sucks is now I have to go around telling people that my favorite movie is “Crazy Rich Asians”. I realize this is one of the only American movies starring Asians… but does the title have to be so glaringly tactless? I already know I’ll cringe and defend myself every time I say it, but it is what it is. All the heartstrings! So for me, it’s worth it.