Spoiler Alert: there’s a lot of private jets and huge palaces involved.
Crazy Rich Asians continues to round out its all-Asian cast with Sonoya Mizuno (Ex Machina) playing Araminta. The cast already includes Constance Wu (Fresh Off the Boat), Gemma Chan (Humans), and Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). For those unfamiliar with Kevin Kwan’s trilogy about affluent Chinese families in Singapore, let me catch you up.
Director Jon M. Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians is based on the 2013 Kevin Kwan novel of the same name. The book follows the story of Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), a professor who goes with her boyfriend, Nick Young (newcomer Henry Golding) to visit his family in Singapore. Rachel is surprised to discover that her boyfriend is part of Singapore’s super rich elite. We’re talking, like, the 1% of Singapore. For example, Nick’s cousin Astrid (Gemma Chan) is the Queen Bee of Singapore fashion whose nickname is “The Goddess.” Imagine the amount of money and swagger you need to have other people call you “The Goddess.” Yeah, they’re that rich. What role does Mizuno play in all of this? Nick has a friend named Colin who is engaged to Mizuno’s character Araminta. Araminta befriends Rachel, and you called it, she’s crazy rich too.
With the casting of Mizuno, Yeoh, Chen, Golding, and Wu, director Chu is making good on his promise to cast Asian actors in “EVERY SINGLE ROLE.” It’s refreshing and progressive. I could have easily seen the lofty powers that be casting Rachel as white and changing her last name to match (or not). Thankfully, the Crazy Rich Asians cast is filled with talented Asian actors and actresses. Perhaps, public reaction to whitewashing is making a dent in Hollywood’s lily white landscape. Or Hollywood is finally accepting that if your source material is a book called Crazy Rich Asians, your movie damn well better have Asian people in it. I think of diversity gains like this in terms of Kwan’s clever writing. Kwan writes:
“I hate to point out the obvious, but here’s this tiny bird that’s been trying to get through a huge bulletproof glass wall. A totally impossible situation. You tell me it’s been here every day pecking away persistently for ten minutes. Well, today the glass wall came down.”
Perhaps our glass walls are coming down. Hopefully, other birds join in because it shouldn’t be up to Chu and Warner Brothers to break the glass.
Regardless of where you stand on Hollywood whitewashing, we can all agree that a smart, funny, satirical story about wealthy people in a gorgeous location known for being filled with millionaires is a promising premise. It’s got all the main pop-culture staples: money, family, and drama. What more could you ask for?
We like learning about how the rich live. Why do you think Robin Leach made a living off of this curiosity? It’s interesting to see how people spend bucket loads of money. Further, we love watching rich people engage in petty squabbling (think: the Real Housewives franchise) and dealing with their interpersonal drama (think: Dallas). Maybe we secretly love gaudy house interiors (think: MTV Cribs). Perhaps it’s Darwinian. We want to see how the monetarily fittest accumulated all those extra procreation enabling resources. We don’t know for sure and we never can.
Kwan’s book is all about how the other half lives. At one point in the novel, there is a wedding so over the top that it would cause a wedding magazine editor to weep ugly tears at it’s sheer magnitude. Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), Nick’s mom, has a jewelry collection that Elizabeth Taylor would love. Crazy Rich Asian’s is clearly going to bring the glitz in a way that adds to these conversations about wealth.
Sonoya Mizuno is set to appear in Alex Garland’s Annihilation and MGM’s The Domestics. Michelle Yeoh will be our newest Star Trek captain in Star Trek: Discovery. We may have to wait a while though because the premiere has been indefinitely delayed. On the bright side, you can catch Constance Wu – one of my favorite TV smothers – in Fresh Off the Boat every Tuesday on ABC at 9/8 central time.