Crazy Rich Asians, the latest box office hit, opens with a simple quote that reads, “China is a sleeping giant. Let her sleep. For when she wakes, she will move the world.” It is a bold statement but immediately intrigues the audience and encourages viewers to watch and see what will unfold on the screen.
What initially struck me about Crazy Rich Asians was how visually gorgeous it is. Expensive clothes and mansions are present throughout the entire film adding to its glamour. Despite its attractiveness, it is Constance Wu’s portrayal of Rachel Chu and the array of charming characters that really draws in audiences.
The plot of Crazy Rich Asians centers around Rachel Chu, a young Asian-American woman, as she travels to Singapore to meet her boyfriend Nick Young’s (Henry Golding) family, only to discover that they are ridiculously wealthy. Her struggle to fit into the family and gain the approval of her partner’s mother turns into a larger struggle: one which emphasizes the disconnect between Asian immigrant parent and child. Passion conflicts with practicality, and tradition is challenged by free-spiritedness.
Crazy Rich Asians definitely does not fall into indie-film territory or under mindless entertainment or drama. The film captures realistic issues and illustrates them meaningfully and beautifully on screen.
One example of authenticity in the film is the prominent presence of Chinese culture. China is represented throughout the film in every possible way. Chinese clothing, architecture, music, language, food, and even social cues are demonstrated in ways that audience members can not find in textbooks.
Crazy Rich Asians takes the classic plot of bringing a girlfriend home to meet the parents and turns it into a culture-rich tale that juxtaposes the clashing ideologies of Asian immigrants and their Americanized children.
Any child of an immigrant watching this film could recognize the parallels between the characters’ lives and their own. Take for example when Young’s Chinese mother says with a smirk, “Pursuing one’s passion. How American.” Many lines like this voice the sheer difference between the “American,” westernized way of thinking from traditional Chinese ideologies within the film and reality. Children of immigrants are the obvious intended audience for the film. Even I seemed to be watching my very life being played out on screen.
Young’s traditional mother’s beliefs, “All Americans think about is their own happiness… We know how to build things that matter. Something you Americans know nothing about,” show viewers her condescending opinion of Americans. The film shows us in the end, through striking character parallels, what actually matters. When fear, cowardice and anger are combated with bravery and love, our outlandish American ideals of pursuing passion and dreams can shine through.
And with that, the film provides an answer to its all too real conflict. When children wonder how to approach their stiffly traditional and close-minded parents , the film shows how. Watch and see.