The movie is successful because of its uniqueness, and its uniqueness extends far beyond the Asian ethnicity.
By Sean D. Hartman
Since coming out in cinemas, Crazy Rich Asians has become an instant romantic comedy classic. It is quite interesting, because it plays very much a cliched rom-com storyline: A couple goes to a family outing only for one to discover that one of them is extremely wealthy and it becomes a war between the future wife and a controlling mother-in-law. But this movie takes on a unique cultural aspect, with an all-Asian cast presenting a new type of diversity to many Americans unfamiliar with 60% of the world’s population.
The story depicts Rachel Chu, a Chinese-American economics professor specializing in game theory, that has long been dating Nick Young, heir to one of the wealthiest families in Singapore. Nick did not see the Young Family fortune as his, and made his own life in America, living humbly with Rachel until the sudden trip to Singapore for his best friend’s wedding.
The movie begins its wild journey when one text from Radio1Asia, in a matter of minutes, gets word that the famous Singaporean bachelor Nick Young, heir to the Young Family fortune, was bringing a “Chinese-American” woman to the most-talked about wedding in Asia.
There’s Astrid, Nick’s cousin, the loving philanthropist who hides her wealth from her “commoner” husband; Oliver, a filmmaker dating his female lead; and Eddie, a self-centered “family man” obsessed with keeping that public persona.
Rachel enters into a new Game of Thrones environment, being seen as a foreign gold digger to the masses, and as unworthy to a family built on Confucian traditions.
And in this way does this movie take its unique turn. Because what should be your stereotypical fiancé versus mother-in-law turns into a battle between tradition and independence set in a cultural East versus West back drop.
Controlling the family is Eleanor Sung-Young, whose criticism of Rachel matches her mother-in-law’s criticism of herself. A more cliched rom-com would have this be the realization that makes the mother connect to her son’s beloved. But it instead hardens Eleanor’s heart, feeling Rachel unworthy.
The movie is seen as particularly unique amongst American audiences, bringing forth what for many is a foreign cast and bringing their culture into a broader representation. Aspects that are normal to many Asian communities, from the importance of filial piety, to the hierarchical nature of Asian identity.
But even outside the cultural differences, this romantic comedy takes aim at the typical rom-com tropes. Characters who would normally be on Rachel’s side turn against her, and those who should be against her show support. Each family member has their own dark secret and even the good experience the misery that comes with running a corporate empire.
The movie is successful because of its uniqueness, and its uniqueness extends far beyond the Asian ethnicity. Crazy Stupid Asians takes what for many is a foreign culture and makes it real and connectible to us through the art of cinema, all while keeping true to their own culture. It follows that pattern in its romantic comedy storytelling, respecting the tropes while making their own. It is no surprise why it has become a comedic classic.
Sean David Hartman is a reporter for the Central Florida Post, covering entertainment and public affairs. He describes himself as a “Professional Political Nuisance” and goes after politicians on both sides. Hartman is an autism rights activist, and #ProudlyAutistic.