Crazy Rich Asians the movie proves what book-readers have been saying for about a century now: the book is always better. This movie had the opportunity to be amazing, but by “Americanizing” the ending in order to leave theater-goers feeling warm and fuzzy inside, it threw away the chance of being truly spectacular.
This is going to be more about what changed and less about what happened. With +’s and -‘s I will go through what I liked and what I didn’t like.
+: Brilliant casting choices from top to bottom. Eleanor Young comes off as intimidating – perfect! Rachel Chu comes off as innocent and sweet – perfect! Nick Young looks so handsome even the boys would want him – perfect! I couldn’t find a single actor who didn’t fit the part.
+: Peik Lin provides a lot of the humor in the movie, which is a little surprising because she isn’t a big role in the book. Ken Jeong playing her father was absolutely hilarious, though sometimes I wondered if I was even allowed to laugh, since he was playing a caricature of a Chinese man.
-: Astrid. Poor Astrid. You see, if you just saw the movie, you’d think Crazy Rich Asians is the story of Rachel. It isn’t. Astrid, Nick’s cousin, is actually just as important to the book as Rachel is. Astrid is so important, in fact, that the most tense part of the book comes with her story arc’s climax, not Rachel’s. She was marginalized and nearly written entirely out of the movie altogether. That’s not to mention that the movie’s depiction of events involving her, was entirely inaccurate.
-: Why, oh why, did we have to have a super-happy ending? Is it because we’re Americans and thus we must leave the theater feeling super-fulfilled, warm and fuzzy, ready to go have sex with our partner? The book does not have a happy ending; instead, it ends on a joke, with everything still up in the air. The Hunger Games got this right; every movie until the final one ended with a huge cliffhanger. If Kevin Kwan (the author) believed in cliffhangers, you should bow to the author’s wishes and leave things unsettled.
-: Rachel is not poor; actually she’s quite rich herself. I know where the movie was going with the whole “poor working-class immigrant” thing (*hint* *hint*), but that was a totally inaccurate depiction of her character. She didn’t need to be turned into Joe the Plumber in order for us to like her.
+: The first half of the movie was so accurate to the book, I was almost peeing myself in the theater. It was outstanding. The only fault was Astrid’s marginalization. If they had spent more time on her, that first half would have been perfect.
+: Every minor character looked, talked, sounded, and acted like they were straight out of the book. There was such an attention to detail that I don’t know how they then went off the rails.
-: As soon as the wedding reception happened, the movie felt like it was the Speed-Up Round of Wheel of Fortune. Suddenly we had to squeeze everything into half an hour because we had a time constraint. That’s when the movie really started to deviate from the book.
If you have any interest in this series, you should first read the first book, then go into the movie with low expectations. My expectations were too high; I expected a Hunger Games-esque carbon copy of the original story. Also, try not to get chills when Eleanor Young stares into the camera. That actress is truly amazing.
Overall rating (out of four stars): ***1/2