Crazy Rich Asians: Another Perspective - Review by Little Sister Hayes
What’s good y’all? Typically I stay behind the scenes at the Kush and Kai: Talking Movies show, but I’m such a total fangirl of Kevin Kwan books and his entire franchise that I suggested to Kush Hayes that Crazy Rich Asians might be the perfect opportunity to introduce myself and let you know that along with guys I too am glad you’re here. My perspective on Crazy Rich Asians appears below, but my main role in your world is to help you collaborate with Kush and Kai.
So. I’m pretty sure we agree that Kush and Kai are groundbreaking, smart, and hilarious. What about Kevin Kwan? I think of myself as an early adopter of Crazy Rich Asians because I read an advance copy in 2013 and realized a few pages in that I was holding a future New York Times bestseller in my hands, and a few pages later I realized with certainty that this novel would be optioned as a film. For one thing, just like your boys Kush and Kai, Kevin Kwan is really funny. Some of his footnotes are paragraphs long and will make you laugh out loud as standalone stories. Crazy Rich Asians and the subsequent novels China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems are amazing stories because they are actually Kevin Kwan’s memoirs.
Kush Hayes mentioned in Microdose 35 that he was surprised at how much he enjoyed Crazy Rich Asians and how the cinematography is like a travel ad for Singapore, and I completely agree about the stunning cinematography. This film is of course widely lauded as being a satisfying rom com with all the elements you’re looking for in that genre – with the added bonus of groundbreakingly diverse casting.
You will love Crazy Rich Asians for those reasons, for the fun and witty script generously accented with touching moments, and yet as Kush mentioned: if you pay attention to where the camera lingers, there is even more to this film. The landscape of Singapore is definitely a character in the film – much in the tradition of Jack Gold’s The Return of the Native (1994) that honored the British countryside as a major character in and of itself.
And . . . cheerio . . . the British influence is everywhere here once you realize what you’re looking at. The cabaret / big band style live music and sweeping shots of partying guests idling in their finery in Tyersall Park, plus the continual emphasis on class and speculation over others’ financial motives bring a definite presence of Jane Austen for those familiar with her genre. Both the party and tension scenes at Tyersall Park have direct counterparts in the Austen canon – especially Pride and Prejudice, in which Elizabeth is of course accused of being from a crass family and unworthy of her love interest. Downton Abbey comes to mind as well as the camera affectionately prolongs scenes of behind the scenes banquet prep. All of this pairs quite nicely with Gemma Chan ‘s sultry British accent and emphasizes that reality of Europe’s pervasive influence on both Singapore and this group of elite characters.
Music also plays an irresistible role in this film, with standout covers being Coldplay “Yellow” and Elvis Presley’s “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with you.” The Hollywood Reporter offers a look at the letter that convinced Coldplay to allow “Yellow” to be used in the film here. Variety explains more about the USC student who provided the exceptional rendition of Elvis Presley’s song.
In addition to being a savory delight through its choices of scenery, food, and music, Crazy Rich Asians does its best to engage all of our senses. In a striking counterpoint to the material objects (couture and jewelry) showcased in the film, natural elements are lovingly present as well: preoccupation with water via fountains, the ocean, and its starring role in Colin and Araminta’s wedding; fire in the form of fireworks and exuberant cooking footage, air through the camera lingering delicately on the breezes like those through curtain’s in Eleanor’s ethereal drawing room; and earth celebrated through lush estate grounds and precious screen time devoted to night blooming flowers. These elements anchor and balance the film, and nearly completely engage all of our senses while providing an elegant framework for the story itself. As I watched the film at an Arc Light Cinemas theater in Los Angeles, I thought how perfect this movie would be for scented air to waft in during the corresponding scenes filled with blooms – or for breezes to be calibrated to match those on screen.
Bottom line: come for the fun universal story spiked heavily with hilarious comedy, and stay for the considered film structure populated with an exceptional cast of characters and landscapes. Spoiler alert: Nick and Rachel’s relationship is actually only one of several stories developed with equal focus in the novels. Plan for Astrid to figure prominently in future installments, as the hidden scene in the credits hints.
4 out of 6 blueberries
Cheers to each of you for your support of the Kahuna Kids. I look forward to hearing from you if you’d like to collaborate with the show. Kush and Kai are available for panels and interviews, and if you want to book them or you want to sponsor the show, I’m here to help you make that happen. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or @KushandKai