The first major picture featuring an all-Asian cast in a quarter of a century (you read that right) has won the domestic box office this weekend with an impressive $25.2 million in sales. Including profit from Wednesday's opening, the film has netted $34 million, which makes it a big win for the studio: Warner Bros. only shelled out $30 million to make it.
Adapted from Kevin Kwan's bestselling novel of the same name, Crazy Rich Asians follows Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), a Chinese-American woman who travels to Singapore with her boyfriend, Nick Young (Henry Golding), to attend his best friend's wedding. She gets the shock of her life when she finds out the Young clan is obscenely wealthy, and that Nick is the most eligible and most sought-after bachelor in all of Southeast Asia. She's immediately thrown into the spotlight, which makes her the object of everyone's envy. It doesn't help that Nick's mother disapproves of her and has no problem showing it. "You will never be enough," Eleanor Young (Michelle Yeoh) tells her. It's the perfect setup for a rom-com, but that's not why it dominated the box office.
For starters, it's set in Singapore — a place many Westerners have never stepped foot in, let alone heard of. Most movies only include Asian countries as pit stops in action flicks or places where white characters seek enlightenment. But in Crazy Rich Asians, Singapore isn't just a backdrop. Instead, It's a character itself. As you watch, you'll find it hard not to drool over the street food in Hawker Center or yearn for a late-night drive zooming past the majestic Marina Bay Sands and Gardens By The Bay.
Viewers are also offered an insider's glimpse at Asian culture: You see a family making dumplings together as a form of bonding; you see women going head to head in a heated game of Mahjong; you gain a deeper understanding of the power dynamic between older family members and younger generations. For once, Western cinema treated a place situated in the East not as an afterthought, but as a centerpiece.
The film also challenges the rom-com genre. Instead of the female character getting the short end of the stick, Rachel is given a choice: marry Nick and live happily ever after or let him go so as not to sever his relationship with his family. It's rare we see a romantic movie in which the female character has the power.
But let's not forget this film's predominantly Asian cast. Crazy Rich Asians had all the markings of Hollywood's glitz and glamour, but rather than showcasing blonde hair and blue eyes, it gave prominence to yellow. Yellow — a racial slur once directed at Asians due to the color of their skin — was reappropriated to refer to something beautiful. In part, this is thanks to the Mandarin rendition of the beloved Coldplay track of the same name.
“For the first time in my life, it described the color in the most beautiful, magical ways," the movie's director, Jon M. Chu, said of the reimagined cover. "The color of the stars, her skin, the love. It was an incredible image of attraction and aspiration that it made me rethink my own self-image."
While Crazy Rich Asians doesn't feature members of the whole Asian community, it's a rare opportunity for Asian-Americans to see themselves represented. Considering Hollywood is moving at a glacial pace when it comes to inclusivity and representation, this is a big feat for Asians everywhere.
So go buy yourself a ticket and bask in the two-hour display of love, humor, and magic.
Crazy Rich Asians is now in theaters.