Crazy Rich Asians - A Humorous Review
"Crazy Rich Asian Women" is the latest entry in the long-running Singaporean soap opera tradition of producing a romantic comedy with an ethnic lilt. Unlike the past few successful movies (like "Singapore: Through the Stone") in which the main characters were typically thrust into stereotypical multiethnic roles, here the lead female character, played by actress Soon Yeo, is played by a Chinese-Singaporean woman. In fact, her accent, cultural differences and personal behavior all suggest she may be of Asian descent. She has a complex relationship with her wealthy, spoiled husband (played by Jason Lee), as well as her three-year old son (Nathan Ming Hui). But when she rich, spoiled husband returns unexpectedly from business, the happy family is faced with a myriad of marital dilemmas, from wanting to save face to wanting to punish Niki for leaving.
Perhaps it is the exoticism of Singaporean society that makes this story resonate with so many viewers. In some ways, the film was more nuanced than stereotypical stereotypes indicated. One stereotypes is that Asians are uptight, self-effacing and distant, unwilling to part with their money to make themselves happy. Another is that they are wimps, easily offended and effeminate. These associations are inaccurate and overblown, and do not reflect the demographics of Singapore, Malaysia or Thailand, the locations in which "Crazy Rich Asians" was set.
I saw the movie when it first came out. To me, it seemed to have an inaccurately ethnically inaccurate casting. I didn't understand the connection between the matriarch and Niki at first, and when Niki's sister enters the picture later in the film, she doesn't resemble a traditional Asian bride at all. I also didn't understand why the five (out of seven) highly intelligent, highly educated members of the Crazy Rich Asian group were portrayed as brainless, incompetent, wimpy lumps who obviously couldn't compete with the older, more successful members of the cast.
Nowadays, in a world where image is everything, it is amazing how few directors get it. Most of the best films that get made are made by small New Zealanders who actually knows what they are doing. It's easy to look at the casting of Crazy Rich Asians and call it lazy, or shallow, or stereotypical. But the truth is that the story and dialogue of the film accurately represent Singaporean life. We don't want to live in a world where every single character is Asian, because then it becomes homogenous, boring, and reduces the richness and variety of the world we live in.
The other problem with Crazy Rich Asics is the translation of its lead character, a thirty-something Chinese man called Wingnut, into English. There is a section in Singaporean English, where it seems like Wingnut's original dialect would have been better suited. He speaks mostly in Singlish, so it makes me wonder why he was changed to English, especially since Singaporean speakers already have a hard time understanding Chinese characters and don't need another language to communicate. The jokes are nevertheless funny, and I enjoyed the occasional laugh provided by the lead character's over-the-top sense of humour.
Overall, I recommend Crazy Rich Asians to anyone who likes watching independent movies from Asia without bias and who likes their Chinese characters told from the point-of-view of the characters themselves. I also recommend it to anyone who wants to see exactly why the Chinese love so much their country and are so proud of their heritage. Watching Crazy Rich Asics will teach you more about Singaporean culture and Singaporean Chinese actors' skills.
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