There’s a mixture of excitement and trepidation that one experiences right before watching the film adaptation of a book they love. It’s a feeling of ownership and protectiveness, of high expectations and of course, that risk of disappointment.
With “Crazy Rich Asians,” which opens in cinemas on Aug. 22, that feeling is amplified by reverberating declarations of the movie’s cultural importance. Yes, we’ve heard it over and over: it’s the first non-period film with an all Asian or Asian-American cast since “The Joy Luck Club.” It’s breaking barriers. It could change Hollywood.
There is so much resting on its glitzy shoulders.
Kevin Kwan, who wrote the 2013 bestseller and is executive producer on the film, knows this. “I never even thought we would be here. I don’t think it’s sunk in. It’s too much for me to take in that this book has become such a part of the cultural conversation, that it is part of the hopes and dreams of so many people now that we get it right. I just hope that people love it,” he told us in an interview last year.
“Please be good, please be good,” we chanted internally as we sat down for an early screening of “Crazy Rich Asians.”
Constance Wu (“Fresh Off The Boat”) stars as Rachel Chu, an economics professor at New York University and the daughter of an immigrant single mom, who agrees to travel to Singapore with her boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding—it’s hard to believe this is his first acting gig, the camera loves him) to attend his best friend’s wedding. But there’s something she doesn’t know. Nick’s family, to quote her friend Peik Lin (Awkwafina), “isn’t just rich, they’re crazy rich.” And they’re not exactly crazy welcoming.
Fans of the book know what’s coming and they will feel the urge to grab the still blissfully oblivious Rachel by the shoulders and warn her about the dangers that are lurking: the gossipy relatives, the scheming socialites and yes, Nick’s scary mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh).
Soon, Constance finds herself in an opulent and outrageous world of private jets, enormous jewels, expensive clothes and dizzying displays of wealth.
It’s a romp, it’s a romantic comedy, it’s a glitz fest, but it’s more than that. “We didn’t want Rachel, or the film itself, to be just fun and cute,” said Constance.
The film has heart, so much heart that we were surprised by how much it made us cry.
You will find everything you love about the novel in the film—the luxury, the food porn, the hilarity, Astrid, the complexities of family—well, everything except for Kevin’s funny footnotes. And then there’s that killer soundtrack. “I liked the idea of American songs covered in Chinese, because a big theme of our movie is that the world we’re living in is getting smaller and all these cultures are overlapping, said director Jon M. Chu.
There is more than one Cinderella story playing out here—it isn’t just Rachel’s.
Jon tells a story about Kevin’s first visit to the set. The author told the director that when he began writing “Crazy Rich Asians,” he scribbled the word “joy” on a Post-It and stuck it onto his computer monitor. Jon said, “Every day he wrote his story he looked at that note. He said that whatever happened, that was the most important thing he wanted to communicate. Seven years later, we’re making this movie and he told me, ‘Whatever you do, this is the only thing that matters. If you can convey joy, it’ll work.’ That has been our guiding light, our North Star, throughout. And I hope that audiences will feel that joy when they watch the movie.”
There’s a mixture of excitement and trepidation that one experiences right before watching the film adaptation of a book they love. And when you realize that your fears were unfounded, that the film, just like the book you hold dear, is an instant classic and one that you’ll enjoy again and again, it’s absolutely delicious.
In Philippine cinemas Aug. 22, “Crazy Rich Asians” is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Entertainment Company.