In ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ commitment to family vs personal choices

International tax accountants licensed to practice in the Philippines

International tax accountants licensed to practice in the Philippines

For FREE immigration consultation, CLICK HERE. Use Code: THE FILAM

For FREE immigration consultation, CLICK HERE. Use Code: THE FILAM

red line

Wealthy Singapore matriarch Eleanor Young (played by Michelle Yeoh) gives a frosty reception to son Nick’s girlfriend Rachel Chu (Constance Wu). Henry Golding portrays Nick.

Wealthy Singapore matriarch Eleanor Young (played by Michelle Yeoh) gives a frosty reception to son Nick’s girlfriend Rachel Chu (Constance Wu). Henry Golding portrays Nick.


By Wendell Gaa

As a Rom-Com, I actually didn’t find “Crazy Rich Asians” to be particularly groundbreaking or revolutionary in terms of plot compared to other light-hearted movies of its kind. But the, fact alone that its cast comprises entirely of Asian actors/actresses is by itself a landmark accomplishment.

It’s interesting that I became quite engrossed in the film’s characters and their motivations to the point that I just didn’t care at all what their ethnicity or nationality was. This was the same exact feeling I had watching “Black Panther,” a film that has done its bit raising the visibility of people of African ethnicity. Movies such as these are surely an encouraging sign that Hollywood has become a lot more inclusive of diversity and is seeking to tap undiscovered talent throughout the globe.

Based on the book by Singaporean novelist Kevin Kwan, “Crazy Rich Asians” unfolds the story of Rachel Chu, a smart and attractive Chinese-American economics professor at New York University, who is invited by her handsome Singaporean boyfriend Nick Young, also a professor at the same university, to escort him to his home country to attend his best friend’s wedding. Nick plans to serve as best man at the wedding, while at the same time seeks to introduce Rachel to his whole family, including his mother, Eleanor (played by Michelle Yeoh). Rachel excitedly agrees to fly with him to Singapore, taking additional comfort in the thought of visiting her best friend from college, Peik Lin. However, the minute they board their plane at New York’s JFK airport, Rachel senses that there is something amiss when Nick reserves a “first class” seating arrangement for them, which hints how little she is actually aware of the extent of Nick’s “comfortable life.”

Oddly enough, after arriving in Singapore and having an initial warm and cordial meeting with Nick’s friends, things take a turn for the unexpected when Rachel learns from Peik Lin and her family that Nick and the Young clan happen to be one of Singapore’s most affluent families, almost to the point of attaining royalty status. Bearing this shocking revelation, Rachel soon realizes that coming from a blue-collar immigrant family puts her at odds with many of Nick’s relatives and friends, especially Eleanor.

Awkwafina and Nico Santos, seen here with Wu, provide the comedy.

Awkwafina and Nico Santos, seen here with Wu, provide the comedy.

Additionally, her mother’s reminder to her that as a Chinese-American, she may look and speak Chinese, but inside, she will always be viewed as “different,” serves as a foreshadowing of the clash of culture and status which constitutes the very heart of the film. Indeed, the conflicting Asian values of commitment to family versus the pursuit of personal passion or ambition is a recurring theme.

Being an Asian-American myself living and working in the country of my cultural roots where I never grew up, I could identify with Rachel’s dilemma of feeling like a fish-out-of-water. However, watching the process of how she deals with the culture shock of a different environment throughout the movie is engaging, amusing and even inspiring all at the same time. Rachel is truly the anchor of the story and she alone kept me invested in the movie throughout. The character is wonderfully played by Taiwanese-American actress Constance Wu, whom many of us may recognize from the hit comedy series “Fresh Off the Boat,” which follows the exploits of an Asian-American family’s coming-of-age in 1990s America.

The ensemble supporting cast here is great, but notable standouts include Malaysian actor Henry Golding, who portrays the film’s male lead Nick with charm and likeability. There is also native New Yorker Awkwafina, who hilariously plays Rachel’s best friend Peik Lin, as well as lovely Chinese-British actress Gemma Chan, who is Nick’s glamorous yet slightly troubled cousin Astrid. Definitely not to be left out are two of our very own, FilAm actor Nico Santos, who is Oliver, Nick’s colorful and gregarious second cousin, and of course Kris Aquino, daughter of the late President Corazon Aquino, who appears in a cameo role in the film’s wedding sequence.

Much of the film is shot on location in Singapore, and the ultra-modern city-state itself is as much of a character in the movie as the rest of the cast. I enjoyed viewing the scenes featuring specific spots which I recognized from my last visit to Singapore in 2017, notably the luxurious Marina Bay Sands hotel with its iconic rooftop “ship,” and the extraordinary-looking Gardens by the Bay nature park, with its towering “super-tree groves.” Just as how Singapore represents the best of what Asia has to offer to the world in terms of wealth and status, “Crazy Rich Asians” conveys the richness of Asian culture to movie audiences of all races and backgrounds. I surely hope that this will yet be the beginning of more blockbuster films from Hollywood featuring strong Asian-American stories, themes and characters.

© The FilAm 2018

Kris Aquino plays a princess who is also an accomplished economist.  Photo: Getty Images

Kris Aquino at the movie premiere. She plays a princess who is also an accomplished economist. Photo: Getty Images



Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: