17 August, 2018
The movie version of Kevin Kwan's popular novel Crazy Rich Asians received a warm welcome at American theaters Wednesday and Thursday. Theater goers bought more than $8.5 million worth of tickets.
It was a good start, especially since the film cost only about $30 million to make. Movie business experts are predicting it will recover that amount and more by the end of the weekend.
Crazy Rich Asians received early critical praise as a young, fun, romantic comedy. New York rapper, actor and funny woman Awkwafina also won much recent attention for her part in the movie. And the film has been discussed as a major breakthrough for Asian representation in the American movie industry.
It is the first major Hollywood movie set in the present day to employ a majority-Asian cast since The Joy Luck Club 25 years ago. The cast includes Asian-American, Malaysian and Chinese actors.
Constance Wu stars in Crazy Rich Asians. She gained wide fame for her part on the American television show Fresh Off the Boat.
In the movie, she plays Rachel Chu, a respected young economics professor in New York City. Rachel is in a happy romance with Nick Young, played by Henry Golding. The relationship is moving ahead beautifully until the time comes for Rachel to meet Nick's family in Singapore.
On the plane, Rachel learns that the Young family is almost impossibly wealthy and powerful. And after arriving, Nick's mother, played by Michelle Yeoh, shows signs that suggest she might not find Rachel equal to her son's interest.
John Chu directed the movie. He told the Associated Press he thought a lot of Asian-Americans have similar experiences when they travel to their ancestral homelands.
"I remember going to Asia for the first time and there's a very specific emotion that you feel that's like, ‘Oh, this feels like home but it's not my home and these people don't see me as being part of this,'" he said.
The movie shows Rachel as an "outsider" in Singapore. The funny and dramatic exploration of that experience may prove to be part of the film's appeal in America.
Singapore itself also steals many of the scenes in Crazy Rich Asians.
]The movie has been described as part Cinderella story, part party movie.
Singapore -- with its wealthy citizens, extraordinary buildings and beautiful gardens -- is a perfect background for costly weddings, exciting parties and other almost dream-like social gatherings. The characters drive costly cars, travel in private aircraft and wear the finest clothes.
Critic Inkoo Kang of the web magazine Slate describes the movie this way: "Emotionally layered, culturally specific, and frequently hilarious, Crazy Rich is a transportive delight..."
There is negative criticism of Crazy Rich Asians, too. Some say it is not representative of enough of Asia to justify the movie's name.
Sangeetha Thanapal is a Singaporean-born activist. She brings attention to racial issues faced by the country's Indian, Malay and other minority communities. She told the Associated Press that she does not plan to see the film. She said her race does not even seem to exist in the Singapore represented in Crazy Rich Asians.
"Everyone else is told you have to care, even though we are not represented, we can't see ourselves," she said.
Those kinds of objections to Crazy Rich Asians have been hotly debated on social media. One Twitter user, Alton Wang, posted this argument.
The criticism of #CrazyRichAsians for not being "Asian" enough or not "capturing the diversity of the Asian experience" inherently implies @CrazyRichMovie is our only chance to tell these stories. Don't believe that. Go watch this film to ensure other stories can also be told.
The discussion is sure to continue.
I'm Caty Weaver.
Caty Weaver reported this story for VOA News. Mario Ritter was the editor.
Words in This Story
novel - n. a long written story usually about imaginary characters and events
romantic - adj. of, relating to, or involving love between two people
comedy - n. a play, movie, television program, novel, etc., that is meant to make people laugh
breakthrough - n. a sudden increase in knowledge, understanding, etc.
cast - n. the actors in a play, film, or television show
specific - adj. special or particular
characters - n. the people who appears in a story, book, play, movie, or television show
frequently - adv. happening often
hilarious - adj. very funny