One of the greatest rallying cries for change in Hollywood is representation, in the sense of casting actors and writing about characters that go beyond the dime-a-dozen white Caucasian person. Observers say that non-white characters in leading roles are uncommon, a predominantly non-white cast even rare. That has been remedied somewhat by blockbusters like “Black Panther” but now the specific focus has fallen on Asian actors/characters in the spotlight. One movie, the Singapore-set romantic comedy “Crazy Rich Asians” looks set to take up the challenge, but will audiences watch it? Judging from its initial box-office take, it may be so.
According to Entertainment Weekly, as it passed into its first weekend in about 3,384 North American cinemas, “Crazy Rich Asians” from director Jon M. Chu and Warner Bros. Pictures is set to comfortably reach and possibly even surpass a ticket sales mark of $25.2 million. Based on a bestselling 2013 novel by Kevin Kwan, the movie follows Constance Wu as Chinese-American NYU professor Rachel Chu, who is brought by her co-teacher and boyfriend Nick Young (Henry Golding) to Singapore to meet his wealthy and traditional Singaporean Chinese family; hijinks ensue. This is hailed as the first Hollywood film with a majority Asian cast since “The Joy Luck Club” in 1993.
“Crazy Rich Asians”, which premiered in August 15, has opened to positive reviews from both critics and moviegoers, and is on track to do a double achievement of serving as both a victory for Asian representation in motion pictures, and a reaffirmation of the rom-com genre still being able to pack movie theater seats. Its $25.2M opening is now comparable to the success of 2015 comedy “Trainwreck” which got $30.1 million on its first weekend. This is promising given the overall budget of “Crazy Rich Asians” as around $30 million.
If everything goes well, the movie could do for Asian Hollywood representation what the superhero blockbuster “Black Panther” from this February did for African-American casting. Even better, the source material novel from Kevin Kwan is the first of a book trilogy, with “China Rich Girlfriend” (2015) and “Rich People Problems” (2017) continuing the story of Rachel and Nick and their circle of friends and acquaintances in the ranks of the Asian wealthy. Director Jon M. Chu has already expressed his interest in returning to the helm of a sequel adaptation, if “Crazy Rich Asians” continues to do well in North America and the rest of the world. The movie will begin premiering in other overseas markets over the following weeks.
Image courtesy of BBC