Hollywood has been reluctant to take a chance on east Asian and south-east Asian stories. But a seductive, crowd-pleasing comedy is following US TV’s lead in bringing their voices to the screen
I have been on my toes in anticipation for Crazy Rich Asians since Entertainment Weekly put the film’s stars, Constance Wu and Henry Golding, on its cover in November. It is 25 years since Wayne Wang’s Chinese-American family saga The Joy Luck Club and, ever since, Hollywood has largely avoided commissioning south-east Asian (SEA) and east Asian (EA) stories. But the movie’s seductive, funny trailer suggests it will mark an important moment for both communities’ presence in the mainstream.
Directed by John M Chu, adapting Kevin Kwan’s bestselling book, the film portrays the opulent lives of affluent south-east Asians through the conventional, commercial lens of romantic comedy. The all-Asian cast is led by Wu, best known for her role in US sitcom Fresh Off the Boat, playing an economics professor who travels with boyfriend Nick (British-Malaysian actor Golding) to Singapore for his best friend’s wedding only to discover he is the son of the richest families in town (“The Prince William of Asia”, as she calls him). Rachel has to navigate the Dynasty-like world of Singapore’s wealthy elite, and avoid the sharp tongue of Nick’s mother, Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), who, in the words of Rachel’s brazen friend, played by the comedian Awkwafina, is just like an “unrefined banana: yellow on the outside, white on the inside”.