Tuesday, November 13, 2018
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Backstory

‘RepresentAsian’

By: - Columnist
/ 02:24 PM September 13, 2018

“Crazy Rich Asians” stars Henry Golding and Constance Wu

We watched it later than many of our friends did, but we had reasons for the delay: we all got sick. One by one, we fell victim to the common cold. However, once we got better, we headed to our neighborhood movie theater to see the Hollywood hit movie, “Crazy Rich Asians.”

Based on Kevin Kwan’s series of books, “Crazy Rich Asians” tells the story of Rachel Chu (a wonderful Constance Wu) and Nick Young (Henry Golding, in his smashing film debut)—two young college professors heading to Singapore to attend Nick’s best friend’s wedding.

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Once they arrive at the airport to board their flight, it’s made very clear that Nick isn’t just your run-of-the-mill handsome Asian academic. He happens to come from one of the richest families in Singapore.

Once Rachel and Nick arrive, they are greeted at Changi Airport by the husband and wife-to-be, Colin (Chris Pang) and Araminta (Sonoya Mizuno) and are treated to a hawker center kind of night. The following day, Rachel meets up with her college buddy, Peik Lin Goh (an excellent Awkwafina, who should from this day forward appear in every single Hollywood film irrespective of genre) and her family (Ken Jeong as Peik Lin’s father Wye Mun is gut-busting hilarious).

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However, once Rachel comes face to face with Nick’s family, particularly his mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh, in an Oscar-worthy turn), and gets to meet Nick’s catty ex-girlfriends, that’s when things get sticky. Rachel does find an ally in Nick’s cousin, Astrid (a luminous Gemma Chan), who unfortunately has family troubles of her own to contend with.

The Singapore locations are as resplendent as what you can expect. Large houses, massive walk-in closets, expensive cars, eye-popping baubles, and the rich decked out in designer duds. This is a peek into how the upper 1 percent might live.

But, this is a Hollywood film, and we do root for the underdog, who of course invariably wins. To be sure, it’s a formulaic romantic comedy in form and structure, but “Crazy Rich Asians” is much more than that.

The thing that hit me while sitting in that movie theater is that everyone playing principal roles—the leading lady, the leading man, and every supporting role—was Asian. Chinese-American. Chinese-British. Filipino-American. Singaporean. Filipino.

Those were, dare I say it, my people up on the screen. Not playing household helpers or criminals. Not hypersexualized or asexual. These were gorgeous, glowing, sexy, beautiful, handsome, funny, crazy, romantic, catty, bitchy, sad, betrayed, dignified, smart and strong. (And allow me to be thrilled for Kris Aquino playing Princess Intan.)

All of this is what made me and Rob weep. We saw ourselves on that screen. We saw ourselves represented. We didn’t see a stereotype of Asian people, we saw Asians. Amazing, awesome Asians. And our hearts rejoiced.

I do wonder why it took 25 years after “The Joy Luck Club” for this to happen. And now that a Hollywood film starring Asian talent has proven itself bankable, perhaps there will be even more movies that will see the light of day.

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“Searching,” starring John Cho, is also doing well at the box office, and “Yellow Rose,” starring Eva Noblezada, has just been officially announced in the Hollywood trade papers. The Netflix original “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” starring Korean-American Lana Condor, is also enjoying a good run.

I have only dreamed of moments like this, and I’m overjoyed to see it happening in my lifetime. Finally, a reality where my daughter can see herself as the heroine in a contemporary story, such as the feisty female, Rachel Chu.

May her tribe increase.

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