Well, it’s been over a month since I watched Crazy Rich Asians in theaters, and now I’m finally getting around to reviewing it. Admittedly, it’s a tad late, and I’ve seen plenty of other blog and online reviews for the film– all the same, I’m going to go ahead and give my two cents on CRA.
*WARNING* Spoilers in this post, so if you don’t want to know what happens in the film, then I would first watch it before reading this. You’ve been warned!
I knew that the film was hyped before it even hit theaters, namely from the Asian YouTubers I watched who were promoting it. Same went for the occasional commercial on television– being Asian-American (and proud of it), I was definitely interested in watching it before I had to leave for France within the last five days of being in the U.S. I doubt that CRA will hit the big screens abroad for a while, as international films take forever to come over, let alone get horribly dubbed into their respective language (I HATE French dubs). But I digress…
Any case, I went with my mom the day after it was released (August 15th) to the movies. I didn’t have a lot of expectations going in, so I just let the movie take its course and carry me away. Two or so hours later, the film ended, and I exited the theater with a few thoughts about it.
I will say that my overall impression of the film is that it’s not as heavy-handed as one might believe it to be. Especially with the hype about it being a “ground-breaking mainstream Asian-American film” since The Joy Luck Club over 25 years ago, I didn’t think it was so much of that than of just pure, lighthearted fun. CRA was more of a visual fest than a substantial one, but all the same I was delighted at the cinematography of everything. From the cosmopolitan views of Singapore to the street food porn in the film’s beginning to the colorful, over-the-top garments of the posh Singaporean society, I found myself dazzled with all of the aesthetics– props to the costume and design team for making it all look so good!
Yes, I admit that CRA did touch on some Asian-American issues, but more on what I would say are generational gaps and cultural differences between Asian-Ams and Singaporean Asians. In other words, the film shed light on tradition and modern norms, a recurring theme throughout especially between Rachel (played by the awesome Constance Wu) and Eleanor (by the OG great Michelle Yeoh). I related really hard to Rachel, as I’m Asian-American and grew up with different values and opinions compared with folks of previous generations (e.g. my parents, my grandparents).
Growing up in the U.S., I have at times come across instances in which they’ve challenged my identity, both as a first-generation ABC and as an American citizen. There have been moments where I’ve felt out-of-place, wondering whether or not I feel “American enough,” or if I’m doing a good job of preserving my Asian roots. It’s complicated, and those experiences have shaped my values and beliefs over the years. At times, my values have clashed with my parents and grandparents, who grew up in very different circumstances, which can either make or break relationships with each other.
I think, though, much of these clashes come from a place of love, and CRA does highlight that. For instance, Eleanor might come across as domineering (and admittedly, a bitch to Rachel), but it’s from her love of her son, Nick (played by the dashing Henry Golding). She wants to uphold their family tradition, and organic love might ruin that. It can be all too easy to paint her as the antagonist of the story, but seeing where she’s coming from (e.g. her marriage not being approved by her own mother) can offer insight into the person she is today.
The mahjong scene was an especially touching one. Even if you don’t know the rules of the game (I admit, my knowledge on it is quite limited, as I’ve only ever played it once), you can deduce that the interaction between Rachel and Eleanor demonstrates the two of them trying to outdo each other, more specifically trying to show each other who’s “right” when it comes to love, marriage, and tradition. The exchange is intense, but also heartbreaking when Rachel allows Eleanor to win, but not before showing her that she’s worth Nick’s love. Besides showing that winning isn’t everything (as Eleanor technically did win the game of mahjong), it also shows the painful, but necessary sacrifice Rachel went through to show her perspective on life and love– in the end, Eleanor realizes that, and she allows Rachel to marry her son.
I guess besides the fanciful cinematography and the simple, but effective themes of love and tradition, the film itself was a tad too rushed towards the end when it was a matter of Nick proposing to Rachel just before she took her flight back to the U.S. A bit sentimental, too, but being a rom-com, I’ll let it slide. The two-hour length actually didn’t feel so bad, as I found myself completely entertained scene-to-scene. Not to say that the time whizzed by, but it didn’t seem to drag at any point in the film.
I enjoyed Rachel’s character, as I think many Asian-Americans can relate: a good career, independence, and insecurities about being accepted as both an Asian and an American. Besides her, I loved Peik Lin, as played by the scene-stealing Awkwafina– I also saw her in Ocean’s 8, and I love that she’s going places in the mainstream film industry! She’s absolutely hilarious and goofy, and it made CRA such a pleasure to watch. Gemma Chan’s Astrid was also a favorite, and her story-line was so understated– granted, it isn’t her film, but I think it’s something worth diving into with the sequel (yes, it’s confirmed that there will be a sequel!). Plus, I could look at Chan’s beautiful face all day. #massivegirlcrush
Any case, these are some of my opinions on CRA. It’s a bit scattered, I know, but all the same I just wanted to get them out there to share with you all. If you’ve seen the film, let me know your thoughts! Definitely worth checking it out, if you haven’t already, as I think its rom-com status and themes of family and love are pretty universal to anyone out there, Asian or not.
— The Finicky Cynic
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