If the coming of Halloween has you envisioning a night of mystery and thrills mixed with a twist of fun (and a lemon), then consider spending an evening with the 2018 film A Simple Favor, starring Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively and Henry Golding.
Kendrick’s Stephanie, an overachieving single mom with a popular vlog, finds herself at the center of a mystery when her new friend Emily (played by Lively), the effortlessly glamorous fashion publicist dressed in chic suits and heels, suddenly disappears, along with her mercurial personality that veers from supportive to saucy and even downright scary (such as the icy look she shoots at Stephanie when telling her to delete that photo she just snapped of her). These, and many other oddities, lead to Stephanie going into full mommy noir mode, sleuthing out the truth behind what happened as she finds herself increasingly ensnared in the wreckage Emily left behind. And revelations, such as Emily’s son claiming he saw his missing mom, only add to the “Gone Girl” oddity of it all.
Golding, as Emily’s handsome but secretive spouse Sean, reveals more of his enigmatic wife to Stephanie, along with himself, and “comforting the husband” takes on an entirely new meaning as things heat up between the two of them. After Golding’s breakout role in Crazy Rich Asians, he once again shows versatility in the movie, which also deserves kudos for opting not to cast another white guy.
And if you want to take A Simple Affair a step further by making a night of it, don’t forget to serve up some martinis (or mocktinis), which appear frequently in the film. Cheers!
While much of the world welcomes the start of the holiday season, this weekend brings great cheer for moviegoers in China who happen to adore a certain novel by Kevin Kwan. Yes, Nov 30 marks the opening date in China for “Crazy Rich Asians” the movie.
The movie hasn’t even hit the theaters yet and many of my chat groups filled with other women with Chinese husbands and boyfriends are buzzing about the film. And why not? “Crazy Rich Asians” is the highest-grossing romantic comedy in a decade, and it hopes to cash in on the same success in China, poised to become the world’s largest movie market.
But while “Crazy Rich Asians” could enjoy a splendid run in here in the Middle Kingdom, Chinese audiences already have a different perspective on the film.
It’s a bit misleading, as the character of Rachel Chu, played by Constance Wu, isn’t dating the “crazy-rich” Nick Young for his money, and doesn’t initially know he’s the scion of one of Singapore’s wealthiest families. But it does suggest that, here in China, people see “Crazy Rich Asians” through a different lens.
Look at what some Chinese have had to say about “Crazy Rich Asians” the movie on China’s movie review site Douban, including this:
One user criticized the film for its lack of authenticity, comparing it to Americanized Chinese food. “As a native Asian, I feel it’s like eating General Tso’s chicken in a Chinese restaurant” in a foreign country, chimed in someone in Los Angeles who goes by the moniker Durian Cake Brother (link in Chinese). “It looks like a film about Asians, but the spirit of it is American. The leading actress is an ABC. The story is about how Asians look in the eyes of the Americans.”
Professor Han Li, in an opinion piece for Sixth Tone, also writes in a similar vein about “Crazy Rich Asians”, singling out perceptions of the character Rachel Chu as a potential point of difference:
Despite my reservations about the movie’s portrayal of Chinese culture, there’s no doubt it struck a chord with Asian American audiences. It’s less clear, however, whether it would be met with the same reception in China, should it open here. The character of Rachel, in particular, might not be quite as popular. While some viewers may appreciate her depiction as a young, independent professional and be impressed with the way she has realized the American dream as a second-generation Chinese immigrant, others might see her not as the movie wants them to, but as Eleanor does — Chinese on the outside, American on the inside.
Jeff Yang echoes that in a piece about “Crazy Rich Asians” prospects in China, saying:
…the very thing that made “Crazy Rich Asians” so meaningful to Asians in the US might have given China’s cinematic powers-that-be pause: its focus on the global Chinese diaspora in America and Singapore.
…most Chinese don’t understand or find interest in the identity politics of more racially diverse societies like the US. The experience of Chinese Americans feels niche in China, where Chinese are the mainstream.”
Indeed, speaking of identity politics, don’t expect viewers or critics here to chime in on some of the controversies that arose in the West surrounding casting decisions (like having half-white/half-Asian Henry Golding play Nick Young, which some perceived as whitewashing). China has embraced many mixed-race celebrities (such as Fei Xiang), so it’s hard to imagine audiences having concerns about Golding.
Overall, these differences in perspective have a lot of critics uncertain about the film’s prospects in China, with some (like Victor Zheng at SupChina) even forecasting the possibility of a flop.
Nevertheless, as Jeff Yang notes, “Ultimately, of course, the biggest driver of the success of the film in China is likely to be its outsized success in America.” After all the movie topped the box offices for a record three weeks and raked in an incredible $230 million plus to date. That kind of triumph may be enough to power a strong run in China. We’ll see.
In the meantime, as for one tiny little demographic here in China — foreigners dating or married to Chinese — if the chat room conversations I’ve seen are any measure, I expect many of us will flock to the theaters in China for “Crazy Rich Asians”, success or no. Movie meetup, anyone?
What do you think about “Crazy Rich Asians” the movie in China? Do you feel audiences will embrace the movie anyhow? Or do you foresee a flop for the movie market in China?
But one thing that has quickened the pulse of many a moviegoer? The handsome and drool-worthy Asian men that populate the film. There has never been another Hollywood movie packed with quite so many Asian male actors (with some serious washboard abs) who will make you say, “Hubba Hubba!”
“I’ve worked in TV for a long time and you begin to understand that if you see something about a certain group of people often enough, it becomes the truth,” Lim says. And this, in turn, affects how parts like romantic lead roles, which are so often written and cast exclusively for white actors, are written and cast. “The representation of the Asian male as sexually attractive and assertive is so important,” she says.
As the summer movie season heats up this month, some of us can’t wait until August — or more precisely, August 17, 2018, when Crazy Rich Asians the movie officially hits the theaters. And I’m even more thrilled about the film since seeing the trailer, which dropped last month. Here are three reasons I’m all psyched about the forthcoming movie Crazy Rich Asians:
It’s “Like the Asian Bachelor“
That quote from the Crazy Rich Asianstrailer nails one of the most exciting things about this movie. The dreamy Mr. Right at the heart of the film — the one every woman desperately wants to snag, not unlike the hit US reality TV show The Bachelor — happens to be an Asian man.
That’s a huge deal.
While Asian actors overall — men and women — rarely play the romantic leads in Hollywood movies, that’s especially true for Asian men, slapped with some of the most damaging and racist stereotypes in popular media. More often than not, Asian men are portrayed as effeminate and even laughable, but rarely the guy you’d swoon over.
So a movie with an Asian man as “the most eligible bachelor” — a guy who’s suave in a tux with a sexy British accent — is extraordinary. It surpasses any romantic leads I’ve ever seen on TV or in the movies played by an Asian man. In a word, it’s groundbreaking.
So is this snippet of conversation in the trailer between the romantic leads Nick Young (played by Henry Golding) and Rachel Chu (played by Constance Wu):
Rachel: You really should have told me you’re like the Prince William of Asia.
Nick: That’s ridiculous. I’m much more of a Harry.
In This Cinderella Story, She’s Asian
Fans have called Crazy Rich Asians another Cinderella story and it’s an apt comparison. After all, compared to Nick Young’s ultrawealthy family, solidly middle-class Rachel Chu doesn’t have that kind of money or lifestyle. And even though she happens to be his girlfriend, she spends the story fighting for a place with him and in the opulent, over-the-top world he inhabits in Asia.
When was the last time you saw an Asian woman starring as a kind of Cinderella figure in a Hollywood movie? It rarely happens, if at all. So it’s amazing to see that the woman we’re all rooting for to live happily ever after is Asian.
And if the trailer is any measure, Constance Wu truly shines in her role as Rachel Chu, complete with plenty of princess-worthy gowns.
People have been saying this movie is to the Asian community what Black Panther has been for the Black community, and for good reason. Because visibility and representation matters, period.
For the first time, you have a movie where the entire cast is all Asian actors. A movie that lets a variety of characters, with all of their nuances and imperfections and humanity, stand out on the big screen, all of whom happen to be Asian.
Also, when you have a movie populated exclusively by a diverse cast of Asians, there’s no room for damaging stereotypes or racist typecasting.
This is art that sends a strong message — that more Asian actors deserve leading roles in the movies. And if Crazy Rich Asians succeeds, it could lead to many more films headed by a strong Asian cast of characters, meaning more positive portrayals of Asians onscreen.
And that, to borrow a line from a song in the trailer for Crazy Rich Asians, “is glorious!”
Have you heard about Crazy Rich Asians? What about the upcoming movie are you thrilled about?
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