Movie review: “Crazy Rich Asians”

Some background before my movie review for Crazy Rich Asians:

I LOVE the Crazy Rich Asians series. I went to both signings that Fully Booked organized for Kevin Kwan: the first one in 2015 to promote China Rich Girlfriend, and the second one in 2017 for Rich People Problems.

So yes. Because of this:

  1. I’m heavily invested in this series.
  2. There will be SPOILERS in this movie review.
  3. There will be comparisons to the books.

All set? Everyone ready? Let’s do this!

All things considered, I loved the movie. It was heartwarming and funny, and focused on family and the hold they have on us long after we’ve left the nest.

One improvement the movie made over the book was its characterization of Rachel (Constance Wu). I found Rachel’s characterization in the book to be sorely lacking – it seemed like she was just there and just got pulled along by circumstances, rather than a person who reacted to what was happening. Not so with the movie. With this movie, we get to see Rachel in her element as an economics professor, her insecurities, and her discovering her inner dragon and finally understanding her Asian-American identity. The movie made me root for her in way that the book didn’t.

Henry Golding as Nick Young also made me love Nick. For the first time ever, Nick has an actual personality! I really liked his interactions with Colin, which I think cemented their friendship better than the book did. (I don’t remember if they interacted that much in the book but if I can’t remember, that probably means that it wasn’t that big of a deal?) Plus Henry Golding is definitely easy on the eyes to YES, I finally appreciated Nick as Singapore’s most eligible bachelor.

Speaking of perfect casting: Gemma Chan as Astrid Leong-Teo was brilliant. Gemma has this ethereal quality to her that she brought to her portrayal of It Girl Astrid. Astrid looks like she’s walking on air! She is reserved and formal with outsiders, but you can see her loosen up and enjoy herself when she’s with her family.

Another character who benefited from the book to movie transition is Eleanor Young, played to perfection by Michelle Yeoh. Yes, we do get to see Eleanor’s “softer” side later on in the series but for the most part, she’s unrepentant. The movie and Michelle Yeoh elevated Eleanor’s character to the point that she’s actually relatable and not so villainous.

Unfortunately, with all the good comes the bad. I hated how they turned Peik Lin Goh into comic relief. I HATED IT. Yes, Awkwafina did a great job with how the character was written and yes, she stole every scene she was in, but Peik Lin is NOT comic relief. She is a shrewd and intelligent woman who runs her family’s construction business. She has no qualms about spending money because she earned it. Her business acumen factors into an important plot point in Book 3. Since the movie relegated her to “wacky best friend” and even her father said that she only came home as “Chinese Ellen” – no mentions about what degree she got or her role in the family business – I’m not sure how they’re going to deal with that satisfactorily by Movie 3.

There was also scarcely any Kitty Pong, though that’s to be expected since she’s not important in CRA. I do hope they build her up properly in China-Rich Girlfriend.

As expected, transitioning from book to screen meant almost everything unrelated to the A-plot was removed. The most notable of this was Astrid’s arc, as they greatly simplified Astrid and Michael’s story and have them divorce in this movie instead of Movie 2. As a consequence of this, my absolute fave Charlie Wu (played by Harry Shum Jr.) was cut as well 🙁 While this was expected and made the movie tighter, I’m still sad that Charlie only appears in the mid-credits scene and the trailers. Here’s hoping they feature him and Astrid more in the sequel because they are the true OTP of this series.

John Chu and company also changed the ending. The book ends without Nick proposing – he was supposed to but Eleanor and Su Yi (Nick’s grandmother) drop the bomb about Rachel’s family history before he gets the chance – so there was definitely no engagement party and no blessing from Eleanor. The mahjong showdown between Rachel and Eleanor was also new.

The mahjong scene was a definite highlight and I’m so glad they did that. You can read about the symbolism of the mahjong scene. It finally gave Rachel the personality she lacked in the books and Eleanor her soul. As for the engagement and Eleanor’s blessing, it was a feel-good ending that wrapped up the loose ends in the story, so I understand why they did it that way. I’m still 50/50 about it though. if only because I liked the uncertainty in the book.

Final rating: 8/10.

Have you seen Crazy Rich Asians yet? Love it? Hate it? Let me know! 🙂

Bonus info:

Loved the dramatic city-wide views of Singapore? Got a hankering to visit the Lion City? Read about the filming locations! 

2 Replies to “Movie review: “Crazy Rich Asians””

  1. I was waiting for your review! Totes agree on the improvement of the Rachel character. I found her (and Nick) meh in the book but the movie gave her depth and spark. I would have wanted more scenes with the “Auntie” generation as I feel like it would have given the East-West/individual-family argument more substance. It would have given more weight when Eleanor says “build something that lasts.”

    Re Peik Lin character, I feel like the film portrayed her as both the comic relief and as a smart, intuitive person. She served pa rin as Rachel’s guide to the SG world and helped her navigate unchartered waters. I think that when/if they do introduce her business acumen side, it will still be really believable.

    I watched the film twice and cried twice at the mah-jong scene. It was perfect! Really hope there’s a sequel so we see more Astrid and Charlie <3

    1. I was waiting for your review!
      >> Aww thank you! *blushes*

      Totes agree on the improvement of the Rachel character. I found her (and Nick) meh in the book but the movie gave her depth and spark.
      >> Yay, so it’s not just me! *sheepish*

      Re Peik Lin: I dunno. Her being Rachel’s guide showed that she was knowledgeable about society and how things worked in the upper-upper crust, which may not necessarily convert to knowledge about running a business. I’m still hoping they do justice to her business side.

      Really hope there’s a sequel so we see more Astrid and Charlie <3
      >> Me too! They’re my favorites in the series <3 IIRC Warner already announced that they're going to develop the 2nd movie 😀 Still not a confirmation for a sequel, but at least they're working on it.

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