It does not hit cinemas until August, but excitement is already building over the Crazy Rich Asians movie. The first trailer has racked up more than five million YouTube views since it was released on April 23 and, that same evening in Los Angeles, the director and cast unveiled the film at its first public screening.
At the Theatre at Ace Hotel, one of the hippest screening venues in the city, director Jon Chu addressed an enthusiastic crowd who had packed the house and proceeded to whoop and cheer throughout the movie.
He urged the audience – which included a large contingent of Asian-American social-media influencers, including bloggers, YouTubers, actors and models – to spread the word so it would do well at the box office later this year.
If it does, this will encourage Hollywood studios to greenlight more films with Asian casts and leads, he said. The filmmaker said Crazy Rich Asians – based on Kevin Kwan’s bestselling 2013 novel of the same name – is a milestone for Asian representation.
The story is about Chinese-American Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) accompanying her Singaporean boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding) home for a wedding and finding out he comes from a crazy rich family. The movie was shot in Singapore and Malaysia last year.
And not just token representation, either. “It’s not just about diversity or putting someone of colour in a movie – it’s about showing a character in its full colours and that they can have layers. They can be a villain, a hero, a love interest or a comedic person,” Chu says.
“All these things show that you can achieve whatever you want to be – you’re not categorised as one thing, you’re not just a smart person – you can be stylish, you can own who you are and you don’t have to apologise for it. You can only see that when you watch something on the screen and that drives that possibility in your head.”
Chu, 38, who was born in Palo Alto, California, says becoming a parent has made him even more determined to change how Asians are depicted.
“Self-respect, self-confidence is such a big part of growing up. And now that I have a little girl, that’s what I want to teach her,” says the Chinese-American filmmaker, whose previous credits include the science-fiction action flick GI Joe: Retaliation (2013), and the dance movies, Step Up 3D (2010) and Step Up 2: The Streets (2008).
Criticism On Social Media
The trailer for the film has attracted some controversies, with criticism on social media noting that most of the stars speak with an American or British accent and not a Singaporean one, and the lack of non-Chinese faces shown in multicultural Singapore.
But Chu said this story will appeal to everyone, including mainstream American moviegoers.
“I’m an American boy, so if I can feel it, anybody who watches it is going to relate to it. All families are crazy. All families have their own cultural uniqueness. This generation specifically is going to have to choose what parts of their culture they take with them into the future. So everyone’s going to have to go through this journey, Asian or not.”
Golding, who headlines the film opposite Fresh Off The Boat (2015 to present) star Wu, sees it breaking multiple cultural barriers – especially as this is one of the few times an Asian man has been cast as the romantic lead in a Hollywood story.
“This film is about going against the grain – putting people of colour in roles that you wouldn’t usually put them in. We’re so used to the typecast Asian sidekick or the ‘clever guy’ or the girl who’s the geek at school. So these are all characters that the actors are proud to portray because they’re not stereotypes,” says the 31-year-old Malaysian-British star.
He, too, thinks non-Asians will enjoy the film because of its universal story of family and love. Everyone will come out of the cinema “feeling so joyful”, he adds.
“It’s not, like, it’s a bunch of Asians. You forget about that because you’re so consumed with the story. You cry, you laugh, you’re in awe. That’s how it should be.” — The Straits Times/Asia News Network