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Crazy Rich Asians Thread

PostPosted: Fri Oct 20, 2017 9:47 pm
by pianoman
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Crazy Rich Asians is a film being released later this year or 2018 based on a 2013 novel by Singaporean-American Kevin Kwan. There has been a significant amount of buzz about this film being a kind of “watershed” moment in Asian-American culture, since it is an almost entirely Asian production. It is a film based on a novel by an Asian writer being directed by an Asian director with a predominantly Asian or half-Asian cast. Before people get too excited, however, according to IMDb the screenwriter, the producers, the composer, the cinematographer, the editor, the casting director and the production designer are all non-Asians. Many people do not realize how insignificant the director is in a studio production.

Kwan is the fourth generation of one of Singapore’s oldest bank’s founding members. His father was an engineer and mother a pianist. They moved to the US when Kwan was 11. He is related to Nancy Kwan, the British-Cantonese actress who has worked in Hollywood since the 60’s. He attended the University of Houston and then Parson’s School of Design in Manhattan for photography and worked as an art and fashion photographer until writing Crazy Rich Asians.

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Kevin Kwan

The director on the film is Jon M. Chu, who was actually discovered by Steven Spielberg of all people based on some student work Chu did at the University of Southern California film school. He appears to specialize in films involving different forms of dance or martial arts. He has most notably directed the Step Up series, the G.I. Joe films, and two concert films for Justin Bieber. The student film that got him recognized is called When the Kids Are Away, which is an ensemble dance piece that imagines what housewives do at home once their kids are off to school. It features predominantly African-American and white women (although I thought I saw at least one Asian in the trailer on Youtube). It is interesting to note that the director of the first mainstream Asian-American Hollywood film is himself directing an Asian film for the first time.

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Jon M. Chu

The “stacked” cast of Crazy Rich Asians:
http://www.vulture.com/2017/06/crazy-ri ... -cast.html

I took a peek at the novel using Amazon.com’s “Look Inside” feature and I am going to voice my criticism of the book here and hope that something about the film proves me wrong. I read the prologue (minus page 9), which consists of a single self-contained and absurdly jarring scene.

Marked “London, 1986,” the scene is a flashback to when one of the main characters of the novel, Nicholas Young, is eight years old. The young Young arrives at an apparently fictionalized English luxury hotel called the “Calthorpe” with his mother, two aunts and two cousins. These “crazy rich” Asians end up walking from the subway to the hotel in the rain because one of them is too thrifty to call a cab, which is an important plot point because it appears that the excessive hydration is the straw that breaks the camel’s back of them being Chinese for the hotel staff. The general manager, named Reginald Ormsby, rushes down to the front counter to intercept these indecorously moist Orientals. When Nick’s mother Eleanor attempts to claim their reservation, Ormsby’s narrativized thought process includes remembering the booking but not knowing that “Young” could be a Chinese name, that “this kind” must be prevented from accessing the hotel simply because they are “this kind,” that in particular a person named the Dowager Marchioness of Uckfield (which appears to be a really pretentious sounding character from another novel titled Snobs) would be affronted, and that the best way the general manager of this elite establishment can think of to handle this grievous situation is to deny the reservation exists. As if in response to the cruel injustice of this discrimination, the Chinese women instantly revert to annotated Malaysian slang to express their disapproval. Ormsby unintentionally lets slip that he “knows” the women have booked the largest suite at the hotel—the “Lancaster Suite”—and this causes Eleanor’s sister-in-law Felicity to reach over the desk and nose into the hotel’s reservation book herself, where, after flipping a few pages, she locates the group’s entry. Confronted with this evidence, Ormsby makes the clutch decision to continue denying that there is any space in the hotel for the family. Felicity’s “Thatcheresque perm” is particularly unforgivable. When Eleanor asks—perhaps rhetorically—where the family is supposed to go, Ormsby’s response is devastating: “Perhaps someplace in Chinatown.”

The women step away from the counter. Felicity calls Ormbsy “odious” and opines, “I think it has something to do with us being Chinese.” What is apparently a Hokkien racial slur for white people is dropped (with annotation). Nick’s older cousin Eddie waltzes over to his mother and aunts with a beverage that he has already charged to their suite and is impatient because he wants to order from room service. Felicity bemoans “pampered” Hong Kong boys, but fortunately the private English boarding school in which they are there to enroll Eddie will take care of that problem. When he is informed that they are no longer staying at the hotel, he returns to where the other children are to continue to play-act an incredibly childish and not very realistic version of what a “pampered” Hong Kong boy thinks a chairman of a company does. During the course of page 9, the group apparently makes its way out of the hotel to the nearest phone booth (this is of course 1986), where Felicity places a call to her husband, Harry Leong, in Singapore. A slightly exasperated Harry threatens to call the minister of trade and investment (of Britain?), then suggests Felicity try to contact her cousin who lives in Surrey. Unfortunately, the cousin is “grouse hunting in Scotland all weekend.” Finally, Harry thinks he will make slightly less of an international incident out of this and decides to call his contact at the Singapore Embassy, and asks for the name of the hotel. When Felicity tells him, a light goes off in his head. He asks where it is located, to make sure, and realizes he just played golf with the owner of the hotel “and a few other Brits” last month in California. An hour later the group barges into the hotel again with what is apparently its sole owner, Lord Rupert Calthorpe-Cavandish-Gore, who mispronounces Ormsby’s name, orders him to prepare rooms for the Chinese women, and reveals that he has just sold the hotel to Felicity’s husband (so he can spend more time “bonefishing in Eleuthera”). Before joining Lord Rupert at the “long bar,” Felicity turns to Ormsby with the cold nonchalance of a revenge a lifetime in preparation and tells him to “leave the premises.”

The first problem with the tone of this introductory scene is how unrealistic it is. Any hotel that wanted to exclude guests based on race or religion or social status would have ways of vetting guests before they book the room. All they would have to do is ask people to fill out an application to become a member before allowing a reservation. They could ask applicants to provide references and require a vote by committee for admission, the way many private clubs do all over the world. If the hotel is not a private club, then it is a matter of curiosity why they would not accept a paying customer. In fact, the easiest way to vet clientele is to set your price for service. While standards were different in the 80s, this kind of explicit retail discrimination is actually very uncommon in the West. The Opium Wars were about opening the riches of Asia to the West through trade, not shutting that trade down. Discrimination of this kind against Asian families who are as wealthy as the fictional ones in the novel is generally nonexistant. It is almost as if the author is lifting a racist scene from African-American experience and painting in Asians for dramatic effect (which is not to say that racism against Asians does not exist in the West, just that it works differently).

But in a deeper way, this novel appears to be a veritable map of Asian insecurity. It is a fantasy of the powerless, a projection of unfulfilled desires, hidden behind the mask of satire. The novel pretends to be a “send-up” of wealthy Asians, as if the author and its Asian audience could never be as shallow and empty as the characters in the novel, but only ends up announcing that the only thing this audience cares about or is interested in is to one day be as shallow and empty as the characters in the novel. On the face of it, it is enough that all of the markers of status in the scene—from the ridiculous Anglophone names to the hotel itself—are European or American. But the superficiality does not have to do with the Western cultural markers themselves but the Asian characters’ relationship to them. One way to understand culture is as a limitation on social differentiation. It is a society’s culture that ensures that the narcissism and naked self-interest of its individuals operate within given boundaries and ultimately serve the interest of the society as a whole, i.e. that no matter what station one happens to find oneself in, high or low, one serves a common goal, despite the need for stratification and hierarchy. In this opening scene, the Asian characters wear their Western mannerisms like a badge of entitlement. Like so many Asians in the West, they want the status that Western accoutrement brings, but none of the responsibility, none of the limitation. They do not realize that the very reason they fetishize this culture—the reason British and American culture became strong to begin with—is because British and American society found a way to negotiate the differences between its Ormsbys and its Lord Ruperts for a greater goal, and that its culture is the codification of that (constantly updated) social contract. This opening scene is the fantasy of an individual narcissism toppling the restrictions of that working hierarchy. It is a racist tableau on the surface, but a juvenile daydream of wresting a denied status and power from the very culture that produced that status and power below the surface.

Of course, the real hierarchy that these Asians are running away from is their own. The writing of this post happened to coincide with the broadcast of the Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War, and I could not help thinking of the characters in Crazy Rich Asians during the part of the documentary that focused on Madame Nhu just before the coup d’etat and assassination of President Diem, where Nhu famously referred to Buddhist self-immolation protests as a “barbecue.” Regardless of how one views the War, Nhu’s attitude did nothing to help her own cause of stabilizing South Vietnam under her family’s control, unifying the people of Vietnam, or defeating the Viet Cong. It was an individual narcissism set against the development of a much needed working hierarchy in her country. What these types of Asians don’t understand is that wealth and power can only exist socially, not individually. A society must recognize some form of order for wealth to be accumulated and an individual can only have so much power as society deems legitimate. The type of “crazy rich” that this novel romanticizes really only exist in the minds of people who wish they were crazy rich because they think it would allow them to flaunt the social convention that they feel restricts them. But real “crazy rich” carry more responsibility, not less—are more socially restricted, more invested in the order in which their success was made, and generally less inclined in indulging in wasteful conflict.

The elephant in the room here is that this entire website is devoted to a European art form that many Asians are attracted to for the exact same reason as the characters in CRA are to Western culture as a whole: for them classical music is a status symbol. Without really intending it or consciously conceiving it as such, it could be said that my entire purpose for starting this site was to nudge this audience away from the kind of superficiality found in CRA and towards a deeper understanding of this culture in which they have taken an interest, one that I believe must inevitably lead to a deeper understanding of one’s own culture and history. Any serious examination of an art form must in the final analysis be a self-examination, and I hope that any Asian person listening to Chopin or Beethoven today hears not a stagnant relic of a status culture that must be acquired for personal aggrandizement but a dynamic, living expression of human potential that resides—however dormant—within themselves, not external to themselves.

Re: Crazy Rich Asians Thread

PostPosted: Sun Dec 17, 2017 11:43 am
by pianoman
Here we go. Release date pushed to August 2018. Asian-American moment promotionals incoming:
http://ew.com/movies/2017/11/02/crazy-r ... -ew-cover/

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Crazy Rich Asians stars Constance Wu, Henry Golding reign supreme in EW's first look cover
SHIRLEY LI November 02, 2017 AT 12:01 PM EDT

Kevin Kwan’s debut novel was snapped up by The Hunger Games producer Nina Jacobson just four months after hitting shelves in 2013, and it’s not hard to see why: The real-life, jaw-dropping opulence of Asia’s über-rich practically begs to be splashed on the big screen. In the book, Kwan details outrageous luxuries, from climate-controlled closets packed with next season’s couture pieces (why, of course!) to yachts equipped with swimming pools (yes, more than one!) and even to private planes with state-of-the-art yoga studios and heated floors (why not?!). His subjects aren’t just crazy rich, but filthy, unspeakably, hilariously rich.

The story’s even crazier. Directed by Jon M. Chu (Now You See Me 2), Crazy Rich Asians follows Rachel Chu (Fresh Off the Boat‘s Constance Wu), an NYU economics professor who heads to Singapore with her boyfriend, Nick Young (newcomer Henry Golding), for what she thinks will be an ordinary visit to meet his family and attend his best friend’s wedding, only to discover that — alamak! — he’s the multi-zillionaire son of one of the most affluent families in Asia and the wedding they’re headed to is the social event of the year. To make things worse, the social circles of the 1 percent of the 1 percent are less than welcoming of Rachel when she arrives. And so, between billionaire bullies, shopping sprees without credit-card limits, and a wedding to end all weddings, Rachel gets put through the Singapore slinger.

Yet the craziest part of Warner Bros.’ Crazy Rich Asians, slated for an Aug. 17 release, isn’t the fact that its decadence makes Versailles look like a Red Roof Inn; it’s that it boasts an all-Asian cast, a rare commodity in an industry that’s still working on breaking its habit of “whitewashing” (i.e. casting white actors in ethnically Asian roles). Few Hollywood films have exclusively featured Asian principal casts since The Joy Luck Club more than two decades ago — a fact Michelle Yeoh, an Asian superstar with just a handful of lead roles in Hollywood productions, understands well. “It’s been too long since there’s been an all-Asian cast,” says the Malaysia-born actress, who stars as Nick’s intimidating mother, Eleanor. “I’ve been very lucky to have worked on one before [2005’s Memoirs of a Geisha], but they’re too few and far between.”

In this week’s cover story, EW dives into the making of the film, from Kwan’s first meetings with eager producers to Chu’s ambitious mission to cast responsibly, and finally, to filming on location amid the splendor of Singapore and Malaysia. The author and director weren’t the only ones with stories to share of the book’s move from the page to the screen; Wu, Golding, Yeoh, and fellow cast members Gemma Chan, Sonoya Mizuno, Awkwafina, and Ken Jeong also reflect on what it was like to not be the only Asian face on set.

Of course, Crazy Rich Asians is still nine months away. Closer on the horizon are the films of this holiday season, and this issue also previews the most highly anticipated titles, including Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Coco, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, The Greatest Showman, and The Shape of Water, along with a profile on indie star and scribe Greta Gerwig, whose directorial debut Lady Bird hits theaters Friday.

Re: Crazy Rich Asians Thread

PostPosted: Sat Sep 29, 2018 11:21 am
by pianoman
CRAZY RICH ASIANS: REVIEW
So You Want Romantic Love?

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In its second weekend, at a Sunday noon showing at a River North AMC sparsely attended by predominantly (as far as I could tell) middle-aged and retired white couples, I saw what the mainstream entertainment media has been telling me is the movie I’ve been waiting for my entire adult life. Obvious criticism of the film probably doesn’t need to be repeated here. Those pushing the film have tended to downplay the criticism in light of the quantum leap forward in representation for Asians in Hollywood: there are a lot of Asians in this movie, and not just the cast but the many extras populating the many, many party scenes.

One thing both sides say about the film is that it is a “standard romantic comedy.” Detractors find it substantively unoriginal and proponents argue having Asians fill the beats of a tried-and-true genre is just the type of “normalizing” Asians need. I would like to start by saying that Crazy Rich Asians is not, strictly speaking, a standard romantic comedy. No real conflict exists in the film’s narrative between the leading man and woman; Nick and Rachel’s feelings for one another are never in doubt, however much their actual relationship is. In fact, both characters are relatively flat. Nick especially is as reliable as a Sears power tool. You could argue that Rachel has a moment of self-discovery and ultimate redemption, but these points have nothing to do with how she feels about Nick and she is not required to transform during the course of the film, only to solve a problem. The real conflict in this film is between the norms of contemporary Western culture and an old guard East Asian culture steeped in a corresponding nineteenth-century appreciation of Western luxury. (It was a relief to know that, at least on some level, the “crazy rich” aspect of these crazy rich Asians was intended to be insufferable.) It is that old East vs. West, old vs. new conflict of values trope. Nick carries Rachel back from the epicenter of the contemporary Western world to teach the gospel of romantic love to his Old Testament mother, Eleanor, and family in Singapore.

There is only one problem. There is a subplot in this movie that has largely flown under the radar with critics—even the Asian bloggeratti—but in many ways demands to be interpreted: the relationship between Michael and Astrid. It is the only subplot in the film that is not connected to the main plot and is not satirical in tone. (It is possible that it serves a function in the sequel.) Astrid is Nick’s cousin on his father’s side, “known for her beauty across Asia,” and Michael is her husband—a self-made man with a military background who is busy getting some tech start-up venture off the ground. Early in the film, Astrid discovers that Michael is cheating on her. She picks up his cell phone that he has forgotten to take with him and stumbles across an incriminating text message. Michael is formal and withdrawn with her through the film. Before the big wedding, in their limo, Michael tells Astrid he must spend more time away to tend to his business and Astrid reminds him that he will miss their son’s birthday. When Michael doesn’t seem to be moved, Astrid breaks down and reveals she knows Michael is having an affair. She proposes they put up a façade to get through the wedding and settle everything afterwards, to avoid making a scene. Michael retorts that even his infidelity means nothing to her, that he would prefer if she made a scene. Towards the end of the film, the couple are seen in Michael’s luxury apartment negotiating their separation. Michael offers the apartment to Astrid, but Astrid rebuffs him. She tells him he can have the apartment, but she is taking their son and he will see him when she determines it is appropriate. Michael asks her where she will live and she reminds him that she owns fourteen apartment buildings in Singapore.

Many of the film’s admirers (usually female) empathize with Astrid and appreciate a bit of seriousness in an otherwise lighthearted production. Critics (usually male) reel from what they view as just another negative portrayal of an Asian in Western media. (It is funny that Michael’s first on-screen appearance is a shower scene—there must be something about Asians and showers that suggests infidelity.) What neither side seems to notice is that there are actually two adulterers in the film: Michael and Rachel’s mother. The third act of the film (after Rachel’s successful appearance at the wedding in the second act) is brought on by the revelation that Rachel was the product of an illicit affair her mother had before moving to America. In the middle of the glow of the reception, Rachel is asked to speak to Nick’s mother and grandmother in a private corner of the ridiculous public garden in which the reception takes place. The grandmother, who seemed friendly enough with Rachel when they met earlier in the film, presents the information to Rachel with Nick’s mother by her side and deems her unworthy of the Young clan. Rachel escapes to Peik Lin’s house and has a typical American breakdown— lying in bed all day and refusing all solicitations. Rachel has believed all her life that her father died in China. Finally, Rachel’s mother comes to visit her (we later learn on Nick’s bidding), and explains her side of the story: her husband “hurt her” and a friend of hers helped her out and she ended up having an affair with him. When Rachel was born she feared what her husband’s family would do to her so she emigrated to America. It’s all true.

The facts of Kerry Chu’s extramarital affair are not incidental to the film’s themes of class and tradition. If Rachel was a Marvel superhero, her mother’s infidelity would be her origin story. It is as if only Rachel, a child forged in the crucible of her mother’s high-stakes non-traditional romance, could break down the wall of Asia’s moneyed class represented by Nick’s family and their imperious judgment. This is the main conflict in the film—as noted above Nick and Rachel have already found each other; the film is not about the development of their relationship. But Michael is fighting the same fight in his relationship with Astrid. Michael’s position is actually surprisingly well articulated. When he tells Astrid in the limo that “even his infidelity means nothing to her,” he is protesting the intransigence of a class distinction that he can never overcome, no matter how dutifully or dishonorably he behaves. The theme is repeated in the later scene in their apartment. No matter what Michael does, he can never be “good enough” in the eyes of Astrid and her family. In fact, their entire relationship is defined by money—money that Astrid attempts to hide when sanguine (in the form of the luxury goods she must conceal from Michael in order to “make him feel like a man”) and that she flaunts when threatened (the “fourteen apartment buildings in Singapore” that she owns). We know something is wrong in the beginning of the film when Astrid gives Michael an expensive watch in the privacy of their bedroom and it is clear that they do not see the same value in it. Astrid’s familial wealth would not be emasculating to Michael if money was not the basis on which she judges the people and objects around her.

The theme extends to Rachel herself—the (relatively) poor, transplanted American commoner thrust unexpectedly into this Asian mean girl class struggle. Her status in Singapore is determined by her lineage (or lack thereof), her professor’s salary (yes, it does take an NYU economist who specializes in game theory to outwit an Asian matriarch), and to a certain extent her lack of connections as a Chinese raised overseas. From the opening text chain to Eleanor’s stare-down on the landing to the mahjong climax and Rachel’s parting words, Rachel’s class is the primary obstacle between her and her self-chosen fiancé. And as we know from Rachel’s secret past, romantic love does not mean that people do not cheat. In some circles in the West the statement on its face would be considered risible; any examination of the institution of marriage in societies in which notions of romantic love have become the norm should disabuse you of any such puritanical ideals. Romantic love has more to do with authenticity than moral injunctions—that one is faithful to oneself or to one’s genuine self rather than to the structured external world of laws and customs and traditions and class. Anyone who wants to object that Kerry Chu’s predicament is somehow different than Michael’s or is of a special category because she is a woman must confront a briar patch of feminist theory that specifically treats the “oppression of women” as a form of class oppression. It should also be noted that, in the Western society from which CRA takes its cues, a self-made man commands more respect than a trust fund baby. Michael and Rachel’s mother both want the same thing—to be loved as an individual—but in this film one is a hero and the other a villain.

There is another way that CRA betrays its lofty championing of romantic values. While the romantic-comedy genre is quite diverse, it almost always involves some form of character development from inward-looking to outward-looking. This is probably one of the fundamental problems of human existence (which is why we watch these films): everybody wants to live their life in their own way, but usually one of the things a person wants in their life is another person, and if you never learn to look beyond the way you want to live your life you will never develop a real relationship with this other person that you also want. Human beings are born narcissists; they must learn to mature out of it. This is the essential premise of the non-standard romantic comedy Groundhog Day: every day you live will be the same until you learn to see beyond yourself; when you finally do, you will wake up with the woman you love sleeping next to you (awww…). It can also be found in romantic comedies that are not necessarily character-driven, such as the more situational films Sleepless in Seattle and Moonstruck (I make no claim to comprehensiveness here; these are just examples that I have seen that seem relevant). Sleepless in Seattle is about two people who are so busy with their professional lives and so wound up in their past, especially their past failures and losses (virtually every protagonist in a romantic comedy has a history of at least one failed relationship), that they can’t even take the first step of saying “hello,” even if the perfect person is right in front of their eyes. It requires outside intervention (friends, coworkers, children) and some amount of coincidence to precipitate an encounter. Moonstruck (with perhaps a slightly heavier dose of comedy in the “romantic comedy”) features two people who are trapped in the past of their almost absurdly macabre losses: Loretta’s husband was killed by a bus and Ronny lost his hand in a bread slicer (and subsequently his fiancée). Ronny blames his brother (Loretta’s fiancée at the beginning of the film) for both losses (fiancée and hand); Loretta blames her lifetime of “bad luck.” Their identification with one another when they meet and their mutual attraction is equally sudden and absurd. After this furious tryst, Ronny invites Loretta to the opera and the next day Loretta spontaneously asks her hairdresser to dye the grey out of her hair and buys a new outfit for the occasion; her sudden concern with her appearance is her turn away from her past and towards the world outside.

Probably among the most classic examples of the genre are When Harry Met Sally and Notting Hill. Both films involve both the man and the woman undergoing an internal transformation on a more or less equal basis—a sort of pas de deux of awakening. When Harry Met Sally begins with a young man as a sort of misanthropic frat boy and a young woman who sees herself as strong, independent and liberated. The question posed in the film—“Can a man and a woman be friends?”—serves as a barometer of the maturation of their attitudes over the decade or so of chance encounters. Sally realizes, when her ex-boyfriend informs her that he is marrying someone else, that she is not as strong or as independent as she once thought (it is her weakness in this moment that leads to her sleeping with Harry). Harry learns that it isn’t friendship between a man and a women that sex gets in the way of—after sleeping with Sally what he fears most is that he will lose the relationship he has with her, because she is now more than a friend to him. Both have entered into and exited from failed relationships at this point because they were too wrapped up in themselves. In Notting Hill, Will is a divorced book store owner easing into a low-effort middle-aged bachelorhood. Anna is a world famous Hollywood movie star at the height of her fame. Will is, again, haunted by the failure of a past relationship, and rejects Anna’s final proposition after a tumultuous courtship. Anna’s storyline is more original: she is queen of a world of fantasy; everyone envies her, yet she knows it is not real. For her, the life of stardom is the fiction of her inner self and she seeks the substance of Will’s humble but genuine life away from the camera lens. When Will turns Anna down before the reversal at the film’s climax, he says, “There are too many pictures of you, too many films.” She is too much given over to the world of make-believe, he thinks. Her response is that she is, indeed, still a real person.

In CRA, there is no inward-outward character development, because the entire thing is essentially a fantasy. An Asian-American everywoman learns her tall, chiseled, half-white boyfriend just happens to be heir to the multi-billion dollar fortune of one of the oldest and most connected families in Asia, and all she has to do to secure her place at this table is play one epic game of mahjong (by CRA 4 they should be able to do away with live actors entirely and film the entire thing with mahjong tiles). There is no self-examination, no genuine commitment, no seeking—Rachel appears to float through life with billionaire suitors presented to her like dim sum plates to accept or reject as she sees fit. We are not even sure why Nick is so determined to marry her; his single dimension as a character in this film is unwavering loyalty to a woman who seems like she could board a plane back to New York to play Jenga with her friends at any given moment. Not even a film like Pretty Woman—a romantic comedy with a similar Cinderella element—is so devoid of any inner struggle of its protagonists. Vivian is a down-to-earth sex worker whom Edward, a corporate raider, hires to escort him on a six-day business trip. She originally does it for the money, but ends up falling for him, even abandoning her rule about “kissing on the mouth.” When Edward offers to rent an apartment for her so she can stop working the streets, Vivian takes offense: she wants his heart, not an apartment and an allowance. Edward begins as a hard-nosed and pitiless businessman, but finds himself transformed by Vivian’s beauty and spirit during their time together. Instead of profiteering, he decides to work with others to salvage the company he has just raided, causing his investors to lose a substantial amount of money. At the end of the trip, he asks Vivian to spend one more night with him, unpaid—but this is not what Vivian has in mind either. Finally, as Vivian appears to be moving out of her friend’s apartment and possibly considering a career change, he returns to her apartment atop a white limousine with a significantly improved offer, one that we presume includes better housing accommodations and a longer time frame.

To be fair, this is not an indictment of anyone involved with the film individually—the actors, the director, or even Kwan as the author of the novel. The film (and novel) was created with an audience in mind, and while one could labor over who that audience really is (Asian? Western? Westernized Asian?), there does seem to be some set of expectations or understandings among or about Asian people that resulted in the film coming out in this way. The idea of “romance” here—the idealized form of it that exists in the collective consciousness of the target audience—differs from the Western understanding. The actual thing that produces or is intended to produce the affective response in the audience is not the same. In the West, the response is, “I want to live a meaningful and authentic life.” In CRA, it is, “I want to win the lottery.” In almost every Western romantic comedy, there is a moment when one of the protagonists gives him or herself over to the other completely and faces the prospect not merely of being turned down by the object of their affection, but of having to face themselves afterwards, having to reevaluate one’s own identity—authentic love requires the risk of authentic rejection. There is no character in CRA about whom this could be said. When Rachel comes up against the Young family’s disapproval, there is frustration and disappointment, surely. But as a roughly thirty-year collection of object-choices, Rachel’s core being is never challenged or threatened, because she has not offered it and, ultimately, because the relationship depicted in CRA is not romantic. It isn’t even Nick’s rejection that is in question.

As is evidenced by the film itself, the Asian diaspora spends a lot of time imitating the West. We imitate manners of speech (especially ones we think indicate status), we imitate behaviors, we fetishize Western brands, we collect Western college degrees, we give our children sometimes mind-bogglingly extrinsic Western names, we listen to Western music, we even out-marry and undergo cosmetic surgery to imitate Western genetics. Yet for all of our feverish appropriation, if CRA is any indication, we never learned to imitate any of the West’s depth. The main plot of the film concerning Rachel jockeying with Eleanor to win acceptance and the story of Rachel’s mother both invoke somewhat clichéd notions of romantic love. But romantic love was never about winning the lottery—never about external, socially-defined prizes falling into your lap from above. It is about the individual, volition, deep feeling, and what not even winning the lottery can get you: the authenticity of a life well and truly lived.

There is an alternative narrative here somewhere. Rachel is still a student and her boyfriend Nick is an image-conscious gentleman from mainland China doing grad work in New York: he dresses tastefully, drives an expensive car, takes Rachel out to the best restaurants in city. When he asks Rachel to visit his family on the mainland for a friend’s wedding, she secretly expects Nick’s family to be one of the nouveau riche she has read about in news articles: Chinese with so much money they are wrecking luxury sports cars and buying Apple smartwatches for their dog. When she arrives, however, she discovers Nick’s expenditures in America have come at a significant cost to his family, who are placing all their hopes on him to succeed. They are not poor—by all indications they are comfortably middle-class—but there is no conspicuous consumption, no unaccounted for expense; indeed, she comes to realize that she is herself one of the “expenses.” Nick’s designer clothes and nights out at Michelin-starred bistros were justified in order for Nick to impress his American girlfriend. His parents are careful not to offend Rachel. They stay out of the way, knowing the impression they make on foreigners. Their faces are cracked and hardened from the sun. Nick’s father’s hands are swollen and misshapen from some unspeakable form of manual labor that Rachel has only read about in books. A couple members of Nick’s household are straight-up peasants—nobody explains to Rachel where they lie on the family tree or why they are there. They don’t even speak standard Mandarin, let alone English. They smile at her and leave the room whenever she enters.

Around the third day, Rachel has a mental breakdown and takes a cab to the airport, but is prevented from buying a ticket back to New York for some reason. When she returns to Nick’s house, Nick approaches her as the rest of the family members disappear into their rooms and asks to speak to her over lunch. He apologizes to her for his family. He explains who everyone is and tells her he can see that this is not what she expected. He admits to her that maybe there are too many cultural differences between them for their relationship to work out, too many hurdles. Relieved, Rachel agrees to stay the remainder of the trip and to attend Nick’s friend’s wedding as planned. She begins to open up to Nick’s small circle of friends—none more successful than Nick—and slowly learns despite the cultural barrier and their perceived lack of sophistication that they are just like her: they have likes and dislikes, they are proud of their achievements and bitter about their failures, they have individual dreams and aspirations but fall back on each other for support. Instead of playing the role of economic underdog to a fictional milieu of “crazy rich” Asians whom she must teach to be less judgmental, she learns that she is no different than a very average milieu of workaday Asians and that class matters to her, the big breezy American. At a certain point, one of Nick’s scary peasant relatives—a widowed and childless great aunt—returns to the house in an agitated state. Nick’s parents explain to her that a man at her senior center who happens to be from the same village has been making overtures to her, but she is having none of it. She now considers people from her village beneath her, in large part due to her relationship with Nick’s parents and their relative success.

Rachel and Nick remain in contact for a few years after returning to New York. Rachel becomes a professor of economics at NYU, marries an American and eventually has a few kids, all of whom are given English names not unlike the characters in CRA. Nick decides to return to China instead of taking the usual route of gaining industry experience in the US after graduation, and finds a good-paying job at a Chinese multinational. Based on his experience with Rachel, he begins to date a girl who went to the same high school in China and eventually marries her. Nick and Rachel never meet again.

Re: Crazy Rich Asians Thread

PostPosted: Sun Oct 21, 2018 9:20 am
by pianoman
Apropos of the above review, Pierre Png, who plays Michael Teo in CRA, was interviewed in a women's magazine before the film was released. In addition to the movie role, he describes his relationship with his wife of 15 years. His wife, Andrea de Cruz, suffered liver failure in 2010 due to the Slim 10 pill scandal, requiring a liver transplant. Png himself made the donation:

https://www.herworld.com/features/celeb ... ea-de-cruz
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PIERRE PNG: “I REALLY SHOULD GET AN ENDORSEMENT FOR G-STRINGS”
We sat down with the hunky actor to find out more about his role in the hotly anticipated movie, “Crazy Rich Asians”, and where wife Andrea De Cruz banishes him to when he’s been naughty

30 JUL 2018 BY JILL ALPHONSO

Singaporean actor Pierre Png arguably has the most heart-stopping moment in the hotly anticipated movie, Crazy Rich Asians. The first scene that includes the 44-year-old shows him stepping out of the shower.

Already, just from the trailer of the scene, the Internet is aflame over his cut, ripped abs. And, as we discover, Png doesn’t mind that his first time in a Hollywood production sees him being almost naked.

Png speaks to us about this breakout role, about being Singapore’s hunkiest guy, and where wife Andrea De Cruz banishes him to when he’s been naughty.

Q: Being in Crazy Rich Asians — which opens in the US on August 15 and Singapore on August 22 — is quite a coup. How’re you feeling in the lead-up to the premiere?

A: I’m excited. It’s every entertainer’s dream to make it to the world stage. To be in a Hollywood production, and on top of that, one that’s billed as being the only movie with an all-Asian cast after Joy Luck Club, is amazing. And to play a Singaporean in my Hollywood debut? It’s more than I could ever have asked for.

Q: The first thing we see of you in the movie is… your character Michael Teo stepping out of the shower, practically naked. This is, as you say, your introduction to the world stage. Did you ever imagine that you’d be making such an entrance?

A: (Laughs) Well, I sure wish I’d had more time to train for it! To be honest, it sure beats playing some tired old role Hollywood has imagined for an Asian guy — a triad gangster, a shrewd Chinese businessman, or a pimp. I played a true-blue Singaporean, someone who was born and bred here. I’m happy that my entrance in the US market was as a Singaporean.

Q: What were you actually wearing in that scene?

A: A G-string. I guess director Jon M. Chu wasn’t prepared to see more than my butt. For everyone’s sake, I guess, I was in a G-string. I’ve been in a G-string onstage in the past. It was for the musical Mulan, and — come to think of it — that was also for a shower scene and in that production, I essentially mooned the audience. I really should get an endorsement for G-strings now!

Q: How did you prepare for your scene in terms of exercise and fitness?

A: I was made to go under a very strict diet and to train under a personal trainer. I am, by nature, on the scrawny side. I had to bulk up within a short time — three weeks. So, I was eating right (no salt, no oil), getting as much protein as I could into my body via supplements. I would carry heavy weights, and the trainer really helped me concentrate on the right muscles to get that sculpted look. That’s Hollywood for you.

The prep didn’t kill me, but it was tough. I was made to work out on alternate days and rest in between, and then work out as much as I could in between shoots. If I wasn’t working, I would spend the morning or evening working out. If I couldn’t do that, I would do as much as I could — for instance, finding a room and then doing push-ups in a room to fatigue. I gave it my all.

Q: In Crazy Rich Asians, you play Michael Teo, the husband of a rich socialite who finds it hard to keep up with the lifestyle she’s used to. Can you relate to that kind of pressure?

I can very much relate. When I was growing up, I got to know some of these kinds of girls. A whole bunch of friends and I would go to their houses and it was like Disneyland — huge places and such. I felt that if I and one of these girls got to dating, I would feel like there would be that level of expectation that my character, Michael, faced.

Asians are brought up to want to do our best. It’s a rite of passage as a man to be able to take care of the elderly folk, our wives, our children. That sense of responsibility, where you will one day step up and be the man of the house and take care of everyone, is very real. I can understand the complexity of Michael’s feelings — it’s uncomfortable to be in a situation where expectations are above what you can deliver.

Q: Let’s talk about your own marriage. You and Andrea face a certain pressure in your own lives, too. You donated part of your liver to her in 2002, and Andrea has said that statistically in 20 years, her body might begin to reject it. Is this something that weighs heavily on you both?

I have good news — we just met a health professional who told her that her liver will last however long she wants it to last, as long as she keeps herself in good health. Those statistics that Andrea referred to were based on a survey and on estimates. The professional said there is actually no reason that her liver will fail. It’s made us really happy, and it’s pushing us to plan for other things.


Q: Other things such as… children?

Andrea and I have actually accepted that we will not have children of our own, and we are not close to adoption. We also have so many nephews and nieces that we are not searching for a way to have children of our own. Besides, we already have a very happy family, it’s just that our kids are ones that walk on all fours.

Q: You’ve recently moved into a new terrace house in the eastern part of the island. What’s your favourite part of your new home?

I love every part of my house. We moved in just before Chinese New Year. For the first time, we have a family room where my nephews and nieces can gather. We have a big dining room where everyone can gather. I have a garden I tend to, and even have an area with a chin-up bar and gymnastics rings. Actually, we also have a steam room on our first floor which I haven’t actually tried out!

Q: Where’s the place you go to when you need some quiet time?

My bedroom — it’s big and spacious, and has an open-concept bathroom with lots of sunlight and ventilation. We have a bathtub and so I can soak in it. My room is like a bomb shelter — I can survive in it for ages.

Q: Where does Andrea banish you to when you’ve had a fight or you’ve been ‘bad’?

The doghouse? (Laughs) I guess it’d be the family room. I can’t complain — it’s got a day bed and ceiling fan and it’s really nice in there. I would go there if I came home late and didn’t want to disturb Andrea — after a night out with the guys, for instance. To be honest, Andrea doesn’t ‘banish’ me anywhere but if she did, I guess it’d be to that room. It’s even got a camera in there, so she can see how contrite I am.

Q: Where do you banish the dogs when they’ve been bad?

This is terrible to say, but they can do no wrong! They might get a tongue-lashing or a soft smack or something. But then it’s over.

Q: Andrea is the director of hair salon Cinq, and you a co-owner of 3O1 Bar & Kitchen. What does it take to be successful multi-taskers like you guys?

Find out everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, and play on those. For me, I don’t have a lot of time and I don’t have restaurant expertise. My role is to support, to hire the right people and reward them for a job well done.

Q: You’ve been married 15 years. What is the secret to a long and successful marriage?

You have to both want it to be a long and successful marriage, and even learn from other people’s mistakes. I think you have to accept that you’re both individuals who are constantly growing and changing, who have different reactions and emotions. You’ve got to work as a pair with that. A friend told me it’s like swimming in a pair — you constantly have to constantly turn to see where your partner is. If you don’t, you could lose track of where they are entirely. I’ll also say, the grass is green where you water it, not that it’s greener on the other side.


Q: Now, if someone were to flirt with you, how would you deal with that situation?

I’ve got to tell you, I’ve not been picked up in a really long time! But I avoid confrontation… If anyone was daring enough to try to pick me up, I would try to make a joke of it and tell them to please, stop. Maybe I would try to introduce her to a friend!

Q: You’ve pointed towards home-grown actor Chin Han (based in Los Angeles) as someone you look up to. Why?

He’s put our name out there for casting agents. As a Singapore actor, it’s so great to see a Singaporean face in so many American productions. I admire him and his abilities, and I feel that he has been at the forefront of my industry, an amazing example of what a Singaporean actor can do.

Q: What’s your ideal role?

(Laughs) In English or Mandarin? If it’s in Mandarin, probably a mute, because my skills at the language are still so sub-par!