MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Much has been said about the pedigree of Crazy Rich Asians and the fact that the film was written, directed, produced and acted by a virtual all-Asian crew. While this is certainly true (and no surprise, considering the source material), the most important thing to know about Crazy Rich Asians is that it is a thoroughly entertaining and delightful comedy, filled with memorable characters as well as lavish displays of beauty and opulence. It is destined to become one of those movies that is revisited in years to come as comfort food.
While I have often complained that popular culture spends too much time with affluent families (including Modern Family, Blackish and Fresh Off the Boat), I have to respect a movie that includes its own self-criticism in its title.
Part of the American Dream has always included the desire to improve one’s lot in life, financially and influentially. But as a person successfully navigates their way up the ladder, they run the risk of losing their core identity. Rachel Chu (Wu) is an economics professor and the daughter of a mother (Tan Kheng Hua) who sacrificed to support her vocation. Rachel’s boyfriend Nick Young (Golding) has known nothing but advantage his entire life, heir of a wealthy real estate empire. In the film’s very first scene (a flashback) we see Nick’s mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) encounter prejudice at a London hotel. In these brief introductions we are reminded that it is our brokenness that often unites us more than our achievements.
Crazy Rich Asians is yet another summer movie that is centered around a wedding and the wacky things that can happen when relatives and friends gather together for the celebration. In this case, it’s the wedding of Nick’s best friend in Singapore that brings Rachel from America to meet the family. Eleanor immediately shows disdain for Rachel as a Chinese-American (described by one of Rachel’s friends as a “banana” – yellow on the outside, white on the inside). But Rachel is determined to demonstrate her worth, aided and abetted by her college friend Peik Lin (Awkwafina, in a hilarious award-worthy supporting actor role) and other members of the Young family.
While I am glad that this film has received such a warm response, my heart breaks when I think about the dozens of films with black casts and crew that are consistently ignored by crossover audiences and the LGTBQ movies that routinely struggle at the box office (including 2016’s Best Picture Oscar winning Moonlight). I am glad that Black Panther was able to attract a crowd, but I am still waiting for the day in which theaters and churches are filled with the diversity and beauty of a myriad of cultures, languages, and skin tones. In the meantime, take the time to enjoy Crazy Rich Asians. It’s a step in the right direction, and a good time at the movies, as well.
Three halos: A breezy and entertaining romcom that is filled with heart and humor.
One pitchfork: Mild swearing that includes a humorous use of the F-bomb, mild sexuality throughout, but nothing the networks couldn’t show at 8:00 p.m.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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