Watching ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ sure is a validating experience for me as someone who has tried to shed light on this issue of representation.
As a US-born Chinese male who has lived in the United States for a couple of years, I understand what it is to be underrepresented in mainstream US media (aka the most influential of cultural forces). When I see a billboard or a TV ad with an Asian face, it would genuinely perk me up. Do you know how that feels? In a world where the Asian face is such a rarity, any semblance of an representation feels good. At the same time, not all of what’s portrayed of Asians is positive. Many times, what we see in mainstream US media gets reduced to stereotypes that I don’t want to name. And, back then, I was often annoyed at how Asian male characters were usually not the romantic leads in US film and TV. Now, that said, I know that US television have in the last decade cast Asian male leading characters as playboy/lover-types, with Daniel Henney and John Cho.
Anyway, a big thanks to ‘Crazy Rich Asians’, I now get to see a big Hollywood studio tell the stories of Asian male characters as normal people: folks who have the girl, who want to settle down and be normal married family men. Finally. Great. Except that this film had a number of cringe-worthy moments – stuff perhaps only Singaporeans can pick up:
- Koh Chieng Mun’s character’s Singlish scenes at the Goh estate when Rachel visits Peik Lin. The forced Singlish delivery was so fake; perhaps it was deliberate (but why?).
- Kitty Pong. God help me. She was a complete bimbo, gold-digging caricature.
- Pierre Png. I had very, very high hopes for the one and only Singaporean male actor in this movie, and he didn’t disappoint. Michael Teo is a pretty meaty character – quite literally, thanks to his abs. But the accent he had was so… I don’t how to describe it… it wasn’t naturally. Was it Singlish with a British twang? Or British with a Singlish flair? What was it? He was swallowing words. It came out garbled. He was a good, brooding presence though. I liked that cos I’m like that too, and I can sympathize with his feelings of inferiority. I mean, boys are taught that they should be the breadwinner and provider, so when you’re not perceived as such, it hurts.
- The bachelorette party where Colin’s fiancee was rallying the girls to go shopping… and then the spa. I cringe when they were woo-ing over shopping and fighting over clothes and handbags. I cringe.
Don’t get me wrong – those scenes aside, I enjoyed it the film. There was never a dull moment. Constance Wu and Michelle Yeoh were class acts. The film had it’s touching moments such as the wedding scene when Nick and Rachel lock eyes, and Rachel sheds tears, while Eleanor looks upon and sees that they’re genuinely in love. Then at the afterparty, when Eleanor pulls up her biggest trump card to shoo off Rachel, and she’s hopelessly fleeing the party. That’s a good, classic chick flick plot twist.
Other things I enjoyed:
- I love the groomsmen: Bernard Tai, Eddie Cheng, Alastair… these over-the-top characters are what makes this film so fun to watch.
- The mahjong scene is hyped up in my opinion, but it was a strong performance by the two leading ladies, with Rachel essentially one-upping the stakes and checkmating the tiger mom in the game of Chicken… well, mahjong, in the case of the scene.
- The breakup scene between Astrid and Michael… so many question marks. They’re a sub plotline that needs to be explored.
Other than that, it was nice to see Singapore featured prominently in a Hollywood film. The world got to see things I am only too familiar with: hawker culture, the Peranakan shop houses, Gardens by the Bay, MBS, and our lovely city skyline.