“Go see ‘Crazy Rich Asians’!” I texted to the father of my Goddaughter, more affectionately known as my old friend Ben Sturges. “What makes it significant to you?”, he replied. I must’ve started at least five responses and finally replied “May I write an essay and tag you on Facebook? Been aching to pen my thoughts. It’s really a wonderful movie on so many levels.” His smiling emoji followed shortly with an affirmative “Yes, please do.”
Let’s face it, a Hollywood mainstream rom com with a predominantly Asian led cast streaks by with the frequency of Haley’s comet (if at all). So my curiosity was peaked by the somewhat predictable trailer, and expectations opened to any possibility. It was further inflated by two days of vying for optimal theatre seating via advanced ticket purchase at Battery Park Cinema downstairs from my office. And to sweeten the suspense, Tony Turner and I were ensconced in our recliner seats half hour before the published showing time.
Glad to report that all proactive efforts were not exerted in vain! Kevin Kwan’s novel turned movie directed by Jon Chu reeled us in by the opening montage with a jazzy brassy Jasmine Chen track, which title aptly translates from Mandarin to English as “Waiting For Your Return”. I’ve since downloaded the stellar soundtrack which includes a Cantonese version of Madonna’s “Material Girl” by Sally Yeh and an unforgettable version of “Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” by Kina Grannis that will be every wedding planner’s dream bridal march. Let’s tick the box of musical significance then, shall we?
As a Filipino/Chinese/American, I’ve often heard “Oh I thought you were Filipino?” Yes but I am also Chinese and American, and have had to quip back with an analogous “As Caucasian American for instance, is your heritage purely English or German etc.?” The cast (and their respective roles) is comprised of Asians not only from Asia, but also from Australia, London, and a global span. Asians with British accents, an atypical offering in Hollywood films, is something I can certainly embrace, especially having played an Englishman myself in two stage productions. That’s significant.
When leading character Rachel Chu, (beautifully served up by Constance Wu), finds herself judged by her boyfriend’s disapproving mother (delivered by the divalicious Michelle Yeoh) as too foreign and not being Asian enough, the audience is schooled on another significant truth. Many an Asian born and/or raised outside of Asia have been rejected as a foreigner, ridiculed for following one’s heart and passion over sacrificing dreams to ensure continuity of lineage and wealth. I simply cannot relate to this. (I just asked Siri if sarcasm is a virtue). Perhaps it’s my Libra leanings, but I’ve been lucky to have resolved this struggle with a delicate balance. It’s a work in progress. A significant one at that.
With Book Author Mr. Kwan admittedly being a Jane Austen fan, and this first novel being a nod to “Pride and Prejudice”, I’ve since purchased the hard copy to experience the characters whose plot lines may not have been in the fore of the film. Thanks to dear composer friend Lawrence Rush's musical version of Austen's novel featuring characters like Mrs. Bennett whose driving force is to marry off her daughters, this film set in modern day New York, Singapore and Thailand reminds us we’re not too different from each other. And it’s great to see this on screen.