By Hans Ebert
It really should be called “Crazy Rich Singaporean Chinese”, but “Crazy Rich Asians” is what it is, and the movie based on 2013 book of the same name by Singaporean American author Kevin Kwan has extremely quickly crept up on the world. It’s box office boffo in America. But how well will it travel in this region?
One has to also wonder if the Orange Julius in the White House will ever watch it? Wonder if its success and interest in the success of the movie by talk show hosts has to do with everything going on in America today? The xenophobia that shows no signs of subsiding.
To those of us living in Asia, it’s been made very clear that the Chinese don’t see themselves as Asians. Asians are everyone else, but especially those from the sub-continent. Those from the Philippines are Filipinos. Singaporeans insist on being known as Singaporeans. As for the rest of us who are part of Asia, we’re bit players who fill in the gaps. But when it comes to the Chinese, we in Hong Kong, see the great divide between the Hong Kong Chinese and those from Mainland China. It’s brilliant movie material.
In the apartments where I live are many from Mainland China. Truly Crazy Rich Chinese. They behave differently. They dress differently. The elders exude a sense of self importance- not exactly rude, but arrogance in knowing how they can afford to buy and sell anything and anyone. They’re tolerated because they have bought class.
Having the young Eastern European princess mistress stashed away in one of the luxury apartments here and being given around a HK$100k in pocket money has become the norm. Either that or marry her so she gets a Permanent Hong Kong ID card. It means no need for a work visa and the monthly pocket money. This type of business deal is “trending”.
If a filmmaker, all this would make for a far more entertaining movie. Included must be the loud murmur of “Northerners” and the not-so-nice “farmers” when local Chinese watch in horror as the nouveau riche from across the border walk into the lounge of a five star hotel, ask for the most expensive red wine, add ice cubes and Coca-Cola to a bottle of Margaux and gulp it down with their friends.
Bottles and bottles of Margaux go down faster than the Titanic while the crew get louder and louder. Finally, a few of them throw up and keel over. It’s often part of the floor show. When you’ve got it, flaunt it. I guess.
As for “Crazy Little Asians”, it’s a predictable little story with some okay-la acting and which to many of us Asians could be seen as over-acting. This is hardly the excellent “The Joy Luck Club”. It reeks of a corny sitcom produced by Mediacorp in Singapore and which hardly paints either a flattering or realistic picture of a very multi cultural city. The movie doesn’t ever move away from being on a film set. I kept thinking of “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner”.
Personally speaking there’s a helluva lot of overacting in “Crazy Rich Asians.” Michelle Yeoh as the rich family matriarch made me cringe. So did cliché upon cliché. But I’m here in Hong Kong and not there in America and for whose audiences this movie has been made.
Having been born in what was then Ceylon to Burgher parents and marrying an American with whom we have an Eurasian daughter, and once referred to as being a “halfbreed”, well, I know that the incredible history and daft idiosyncrasies of the Burghers would make “Crazy Rich Asians” look like an episode of “The Brady Bunch.”
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