Sep 28, 2018
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews
To begin with the book, Crazy Rich Asians, is over 500 pages long. In the introduction there is a genealogy chart which describes the interrelationships of the three most prominent families. Also, the text contains many footnotes mostly to explain Chinese phrases or idioms but, at times, to give pertinent information about a particular geographical area or enhance the meaning of a local custom. Crazy Rich Asians was written by Kevin Kwan and is the first in a trilogy that includes China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems. Kwan lives in New York, but he was born in Singapore where most of the novel is set.
The book begins with a prologue featuring an Asian family coming in from the rain with their unruly children to a ritzy hotel and requesting lodging. They are snubbed by the snooty hotel clerk whereupon they just buy the place. The tone has been set. Flash forward many years to the near present and to Rachel Chu and Nicholas Young two professors at NYU. They have been boyfriend and girlfriend for some time, but no commitments have been made. Nicholas invites Rachel to come with him to Singapore where he will be best man at his friend’s wedding. Up until this point Rachel has no idea that Nick’s wealth rivals that of some small countries. She gets a clue when on the airplane that have a private compartment and Nick admits that his family is “comfortable”. Upon arriving they are greeted warmly by the bride and groom and immediately the foursome checks out the delicious treats of the hawker center which the author describes in detail. Soon Rachel is plunged into a whirlwind of activities. The gossip that percolates on this tiny island republic is prodigious. Nick’s ex-girlfriends make Mean Girls look like pikers. His mother is an elegant, judgmental ice queen. The hoi poloi are so stratified that even an American accent is considered tacky. British pronunciation is preferred.
It is a crowd pleaser and has, in a four-week period, raked in 150 million domestically. I have noticed with several films that I have seen lately after having read the book that film interpretations often times tweak endings. American audiences, it seems, prefer no ambiguity and want moral justification. Rachel’s field of expertise has been changed from economics professor to a field that has emphasis on gaming statistics, probably in order to stage a major showdown with Nick’s mother when they play Mah Jong. Not being the least familiar with this game its impact was lost on me. But, the film contains dashes of Bollywood excesses which work beautifully. Rachel’s mother lives in Manhattan in the film not Cupertino as the author intended. I sort of missed the exclusion of that local touch. The Rapper Awkafina, as Rachel’s college friend, steals every scene that she is in. She is a hurricane of delight and should get an Oscar nomination for best-supporting player.
Both interpretations present the reader or the viewer with a Cinderella soap opera. But, the soap is a luxury brand. Enjoy the bubbles!
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