“Crazy Rich Asians” Continues to Disrupt Hollywood Norms

The new romantic comedy, Crazy Rich Asians, dominated the box office over Labor Day weekend, raking in more than $28 million and retaining its spot as the number one movie in North America since its August 15, 2018 release. It is easy to see why the film, based on the best-selling book by Kevin Kwan, has such mass appeal. The plot is a fresh twist on the classic Cinderella story and features a beautiful young woman named Rachel who accompanies her boyfriend Nick to Singapore for his best friend’s wedding. Rachel soon discovers that Nick’s family is extravagantly wealthy, and she is thrust into his fast-paced lifestyle that includes a bevy of quirky relatives and a disapproving mother. The dialogue is sparkling, the costumes are sumptuous, and the ending is fit for a fairy tale. But what truly sets Crazy Rich Asians apart from other romantic comedies is its cast. The film features the first predominantly AsianAmerican group of actors in a major studio film since The Joy Luck Club was released in 1993. And now, Hollywood is taking notice.

Even before Crazy Rich Asians began earning record-breaking profits, a buzz was building behind the film. Hashtags promoting the film were feverishly shared on social media, and mass viewing parties were organized all around the country. The film’s director, Jon M. Chu, who is also AsianAmerican, explained in a recent interview with Deadline that movie goers are eager for increased representation when they head to the theater. He was careful to clarify, however, that Crazy Rich Asians, which focuses on characters from East Asia, is not a blanket statement on the experience of an entire culture. “It’s unfair for one movie to represent all these people. One movie that represents all Asians – that’s just ridiculous. However, if this can crack the door a little bit so that other stories can be told, and it spawns a resurgence in these stories getting shown at the highest levels possible – I would love to have this.” [See Jon M. Chu Says ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ is a Resurgence, Not the ‘End All Be All’ of AsianAmerican Studio Films, by Dino-Ray Ramos, Deadline, 14.Aug.2018.]

Getting the film to the big screen was not without turbulence. Initially, the team behind Crazy Rich Asians, including Chu and Kwan, were offered a multi-million-dollar deal from Netflix, including complete creative control and guaranteed seven-figure paychecks. But after intense debate, the offer was rejected in favor of the releasing the move in theaters. The duo explained their decision to The Hollywood Reporter, with Kwan remembering, “Jon and I both felt this sense of purpose. We needed this to be an old-fashioned cinematic experience, not for fans to sit in front of a TV and just press a button.” Chu chimed in to add, “… we were gifted this position to make a decision no one else can make, which is turning down the big payday for rolling the dice … but being invited to the big party, which is people paying money to go see us.” [See The Stakes are High for “Crazy Rich Asians” – and That’s the Point, by Rebecca Sun and Rebecca Ford, The Hollywood Reporter, 01.Aug.2018.]

And the risk is paying off. Like “Black Panther,” another blockbuster movie released earlier this year featuring a predominately AfricanAmerican cast, Crazy Rich Asians is disrupting Hollywood norms by the telling the story of a historically marginalized group of people. Its runaway success is sending a strong message to studio executives – the American dream is richly diverse, and audiences are hungry for films that reflect their unique culture and experiences.


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