Crazy Rich Asians has reignited my love for rom-coms! Not since that glorious summer I saw 'Only You,' 'While You Were Sleeping,' and 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' in Warsaw with the dearest girl have I enjoyed romantic comedy this much. This time the dearest girl was my daughter. We wanted to take in a […]
Crazy Rich Asians has reignited my love for rom-coms!
Not since that glorious summer I saw 'Only You,' 'While You Were Sleeping,' and 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' in Warsaw with the dearest girl have I enjoyed romantic comedy this much.
This time the dearest girl was my daughter. We wanted to take in a movie and a Facebook friend from Singapore pronounced herself 'blown away' by it.
Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is a Chinese-American professor of economics at NYU. Her serious boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding) invites her to come with him to Singapore to his cousin's wedding and meet the family.
How nice. You just know he's going to propose, there will be difficulties, a break up, and a reconciliation. You've seen this before.
They throw in everything including the kitchen sink. Well actually the kitchen dining table but EVERYTHING. Class conflict, cultural conflict, generational conflict, the works.
Nick's family it turns out, is rich. So rich they'd tip Donald Trump after staying at one of his hotels. Except they don't because they own all the hotels they ever stay at.
Rachel has a rich former college roommate in Singapore whose family lives in a copy of the palace at Versailles " and they feel like peasants compared to the Youngs.
Nick's family is of course, with a couple of significant exceptions such as the luminously beautiful cousin Astrid (Gemma Chan), dead set against Rachel.
But she wins them over, right?
Not exactly, but I can't go into detail without spoilers. There is a happy ending which you knew, because it's a comedy.
But I was not entirely convinced by the happy resolution " which is part of the reason you should see the movie.
Because this is, if it's not an oxymoron, a thinking person's rom-com.
The conflict is not just class, Rachel being the child of a poor immigrant single mother who became a modest success in America.
It's also because though she's ethnic Chinese and speaks Chinese, Rachel is in all essential ways American through-and-through.
Nick's mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) sees this. Americans 'follow their passion,' seek their own happiness, and marry for love. What we don't do is plan on the kind of time scale Chinese do. And we think of ourselves as individuals first, not members of a potentially immortal family.
Which is why Eleanor can tell Rachel how she married Nick's father for love, struggled for years to gain a measure of acceptance " then tenderly cup Rachel's face in her hand and say something so shockingly cruel I heard my daughter mutter, 'What a b—-!'
And this is the sheer genius of the movie, it makes you understand her point of view. The fact Rachel would make Nick happy and be a good wife to him in the American sense is of absolutely no importance in the long run. So that's not what Rachel has to prove.
What she does is draw upon her Chinese heritage, combined with her Western understanding of economics and game theory. And here there is a great parallelism between blackjack poker and mah jong.
Both are in that category between games of chance and games of skill; games of chance where the odds are improvable through skill.
If it's not too pompous, this delightful flick is about the conflict between two kinds of civilization contesting for the future of the world " and mixing together.
Though they don't hit you over the head with it, there's this quote at the beginning.
'Let China sleep, for when she awakes she will shake the world.'
– Napoleon Bonaparte
A collection of Steve Browne's essays and newspaper columns, 'The View from Flyover Country: A Rural Columnist Looks at Life in the 21st Century' is available on Amazon Kindle.