TL;DR – The title says it all.
There, I’ve said it.
I finally caught Crazy Rich Asians and I never thought I would say this, but I hate it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of the book and the series and was one of those who camped like crazy for the third instalment Rich People Problems to be launched. I have read each book at least four times and if the author Kevin Kwan weren’t wanted for defaulting on his NS obligations, I would probably ask him to marry me. (That, and the fact that I’m already married lol).
So when I made plans to watch the movie, I made grand plans. As grand as movie-going can get in Singapore, that is. Gold Class tickets, checked. Weekday morning to avoid the crowds, checked. Fellow CRA fan, checked. Let’s do this!
Sadly, the only thing I enjoyed about the movie was my order of truffle fries. I even took out my phone halfway through the film to check my emails just so that I can force myself to continue sitting through it.
My gripe about the film is not how it’s not representative of Singapore. Prior to watching the movie, I was actually so defensive about the movie (and the book) before I caught it. I had my retorts to those who said that there weren’t other races featured in it (please read this brilliant commentary by Surekha A. Yadav), lack of HDB heartland scenes (because the book is NOT titled Normal, Everyday, Singaporeans maybe?) and how it’s all about Marina Bay Sands in the movie trailer (which I raved so much about btw) that THIS IS WHAT THE BOOK IS ABOUT.
But disappointingly, the movie – to me – totally got the book wrong. And here’s why.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead.
1) The casting was completely off
I love Constance Wu in Fresh Off The Boat and if I hadn’t already read the book, I would probably have liked her as Rachel Chu. Unfortunately, as someone who has read the book, I didn’t like how she had this whole I’ve-got-this almost-feminist attitude that doesn’t gel with how she is supposed to be caught completely unaware of what is in store for her in Singapore. In fact, I hated her expression when she first arrived at Tyersall Park. She didn’t look confused, or shocked, but had a look of awe and amazement instead, with a sorta “Omg I’ve nabbed a big fish” expression. And her subsequent headstrong attitude in the movie kinda got to me. Maybe the producers decided on this interpretation to cater to the whole ongoing #girlpower movement but I really didn’t like it.
(By the way, is it just me or did the scene where Peik Lin helped Rachel transform for the wedding feels like it came right out of The Devil Wears Prada?)
And then there’s Ken Jeong’s as Goh Wye Mun who looks so utterly mispaired with his screen-wife played by Koh Chieng Mun. Combined with Awkwafina’s Queens’ accent, it was almost painful to watch this family. The last I checked, they were supposed to be a rich (though not as rich as the Youngs but rich enough) Singaporean family who own a property development and construction company, and not guest starring as another dysfunctional family on an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
And sigh, Fiona Xie as Kitty Pong. This was one character I was very excited about, especially since Director Jon Chu had said “We needed to hire somebody who can really act, because in time she becomes much more significant” but it just felt like she was reprising her claim-to-fame role in My Genie.
2) Lack of grandeur
With every article describing the “ridiculous opulence” in the movie, I expected myself to be floored. But erm, seriously, where did the US$30 million go? I was already managing my expectations when they said that Tyersall Park was filmed in Carcosa Seri Negara, a former luxury hotel in KL, due to budget constraints but I certainly wasn’t expecting the stately home of the country’s wealthiest to look like the heritage hotels I’ve stayed in at Melaka. (I highly recommend The Majestic by the way.)
Also, while googling info for the above, I just found out that Amenita’s girls getaway was filmed in Langkawi island and at Four Seasons Resort Langkawi – Really?! I had thought it was Changi Beach!
And the supposed lavish wedding of Colin Khoo and Araminta Lee? I think local influencer Melissa C Koh’s wedding looked better.
3) Astrid’s Wardrobe
I was also looking forward most to seeing the ethereal Astrid Leong come to life. So besotted with this Goddess known for her beauty, poise and impeccable fashion sense, I have even decided that I will name my future daughter Astrid. But while Gemma Chan portrayed Astrid’s quiet strength and grace pretty well, I think her wardrobe in the movie failed to deliver.
Here are some of her real life outfits that would probably do better:
Having a Marilyn moment in this beautiful dress by @prabalgurung. Singapore born, Kathmandu raised Prabal is a Nepalese-American designer and activist based in NYC. Known for speaking out on issues of race, privilege and prejudice, he has been described as a public conscience of the fashion industry. In his words: “I know what it’s like to turn the pages of a magazine and not see anyone like you. It takes a lot of talking to yourself to confirm your self worth”. It’s encouraging that people like Prabal are trying to change fashion from within to become more inclusive – not just in terms of race but also gender, sexuality, size, age and other beauty standards too. Thank you for your continuing work and support 💙 #crazyrichasians #presstour #prabalgurung
A play in plaid. The talented, elegant and beautiful Gemma Chan stuns in the navy and moss multi plaid cotton twisted drape front flutter sleeve dress with side cutout and covered button detail from the Resort 2019 collection at the ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ press day in Los Angeles. Styled by @rebeccacorbinmurray #pgworld #pgmuse #beautywithsubstance #femininitywithabite #modernglamour #StrongerInColour
4) What’s up with all the Chinese lanterns?!
Why was there a need to deliberately include all these Chinese-y elements that totally didn’t fit in? From the red lanterns – amongst fresh flowers seriously?! – at the church wedding to the Shanghai Tang vibes at their dinner reception,
And the incessant Chinese songs in the movie, I’m confused.
They say that this film is made for Hollywood, not for Singapore and this hence includes an audience that still thinks Singapore is located in China. Errr… ok. We now look like a 1970s version of Hong Kong that’s all.
Complete with mahjong parlours too.
5) Too much deviation from the book
Of course I know that it is a movie adaption and hence changes will be made to the plot. Maybe it’s just me being resistant to change, but I feel that the film strayed a little too far from the source material, and for those who watched the movie without reading the book, their takeaway will be very sadly, quite incorrect.
It’s like watching a 2-hour version of Tanglin or Masters of the Sea on the big screen.