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Crazy Rich Asians - Film Review

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by John Andrew (subscribe)
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Published August 25th 2018
Pride and Prejudice in Singapore
There are only seven basic plots, conventional wisdom says. So it's hardly surprising that the plot of Crazy Rich Asians bears more than a passing resemblance to Pride and Prejudice.

But it is what the movie does with it that makes it unique. The first film since 1993 to feature an all Asian or Asian-American cast is one of its strengths but very soon that fact becomes the least important part of the experience.

A wacky roller coaster and an unashamedly over the top extravaganza Crazy Rich Asians begins with a young woman professor explaining the game theory and then many real-life games are played.

Rachel (Constance Wu), brought up by a single mother, is an economics professor at NYU. Her boyfriend, Nick (Henry Golding), persuades her to come with him to a wedding in Singapore where his family lives.

Problem number one said family is massively rich, which Nick has omitted to tell her, and they are less than delighted by the thought of Nick being in love with someone who is not "one of us" especially, as there is no shortage of wealthy young potential partners who see her as an unwelcome gold-digging intruder. Game on.

This is a movie which would repay being seen several times. It has a wealth of characters and manages to display Great Gatsby-like displays of excess. There is a wedding scene which makes every royal wedding seem understated and drab. How about a small river flowing up the aisle?

This movie has really made waves in the USA, with a take of $26.5 million in its first weekend.

Audiences love its multilingual sound-track, including Katherine Ho's memorable cover of Coldplay's "Yellow", which, far from being a racial slur becomes something close to a mandarin anthem. Coldplay originally refused. Sadaf Astan tells us what happened then.

So Chu (the director) penned a love letter to the band and Chris Martin, explaining what the song meant to him: "For the first time in my life, it described the colour in the most beautiful, magical ways. The colour of the stars, her skin, the love. It was an incredible image of attraction and aspiration that made me rethink my own self-image." Within a day, the band said "yes".

In an era in the States where issues of racism and immigration are front and, centre this is an important movie, complex and many layered, with so many characters and such lush and varied sets and scenes that it is hard to take in at one sitting.

That said, the two leads are compelling and convincing. The multi faceted plot engages us throughout. And a bonus is Rachael's confidante Awkwafina (Nora Lum). Possessed of a seemingly endless supply of wacky outfits her tiny body and supersized persona brings the screen to life as she coches Rachael in how the game should be played. She must be confident in her own worth, and make her opponents run like chickens. "Bok, bok bitch!".

Pivotal to the plot is a game of Ma Jong between Rachael and Nick's mother. How Rachael plays her hand changes everything.
We can but hope that this movie generates not only a sequel, but also an awareness that multi-cultural actors can win the love of audiences.

This is not only a very good movie. With any luck, it is a game changer.

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Why? Groundbreaking rom-com
Where: Cinemas across Australia
Cost: $18
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