After a day at the TIME office in Hong Kong, a colleague and I recently saw the Pixar short Bao, an eight-minute long film that aired before Incredibles 2. Directed by Domee Shi, the film follows an animated dumpling, who is nurtured by a Chinese mother into adolescence and eventually adulthood. We were both moved by the loving references Shi made to her own Chinese-Canadian upbringing. Even in cute cartoon format, we were seeing a part of ourselves authentically represented on screen for Western-oriented audiences—an experience still all too rare in 2018.
It was the seemingly small things in Bao that had an impact—from the colored visor worn by the mother practicing tai chi in the park to the woven baskets of steamed dumplings gobbled up by the father. That similar attention to detail is what many of us with Asian heritage are hoping to see on screen in this summer’s romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians, released in the U.S. on Aug. 15.
Based on the phenomenally popular book franchise by Singaporean-American author Kevin Kwan, the film will be the first major motion picture movie featuring an all-Asian cast and Asian-American leads since 1993’s The Joy Luck Club. Constance Wu, who rose to fame in the ABC series Fresh Off the Boat, plays Rachel Chu, a New York professor who accepts her boyfriend Nick Young’s invitation to attend a wedding in Singapore. There, she discovers that Nick’s family is one of the wealthiest in Asia and that his formidable mother, played by Michelle Yeoh, is not easy to impress.
The world Kwan creates in the film’s namesake novel, as well as its sequels, China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems, is filled with dazzling caricatures and garish sparkle. No expense is spared. Film stars dressed head to toe in Gucci dine at Michelin-star restaurants. On long weekends, boarding school-educated lotharios whiz over to island havens on private jets. Duplex penthouses, Lamborghinis and $195 million artworks are simply casual purchases.
Although the glamour can be overwhelming, the world Kwan creates is not just an escapist one. It’s part satire, a critique of the consumerism and desire for social status that drives the competition between old money vs nouveau riche. It also subverts our expectations of the traditional West-East power dynamic, as the fantastical wealth of Asia’s elite families makes searching for an ‘American Dream’ seem almost provincial in comparison.
But as well as being a classic romance, Crazy Rich Asians is also something of a love letter from Kwan to his native Singapore, and to the region as a whole. As a Malaysian-British Londoner now living in Hong Kong, I share the same affection that Kwan does for this part of the world. The more frugal elements of Crazy Rich Asians call to mind my experiences here, like the tapping of chopsticks demanding a taste of char kuay teow in the chaos of a hawker food center, or a crowd of wedding guests toasting “Yum …read more
Source:: Time – Entertainment