Kevin Kwan and his "Crazy Rich Asians" series have come with me on two vacations this year. I read "Crazy Rich Asians" poolside at The Shore Club in Turks and Caicos and "China Rich Girlfriend" on Head of the Meadow Beach in Truro on Cape Cod. I was counting down to the movie premiere, hoping some of my favorite scenes would make the cut for the big screen.
I saw the movie with two friends and in the spirit of the film, we started the evening at Genki Ya in Cambridge. I had delicious miso soup, veggie dumplings and udon noodles. With full bellies, we headed across the street to the Apple Cinema.
*SPOILER ALERT! Do not read on if you do not want to know any specifics about the plot of the movie.*
Before the film began, I turned to the girls and said, "The only scene I feel absolutely must make it in is the bachelorette party on the tropical island. When I read the book, I was picturing it on screen and I have to see that come to fruition!"
For those who haven't read the books, the first novel introduces readers to Nick Young, the heir to a family fortune in Singapore, and his very humble girlfriend, Rachel Chu.
Nick asks Rachel to fly home to Singapore with him for his best friend's wedding, who happens to be one of the most famous bachelors in the country.
In the book, Rachel has no idea Nick's family is wealthy until they board their flight and are escorted to a private pod in first class. I couldn't wait to see how they would bring that moment to life on screen and it did not disappoint! When Rachel discovers the complimentary pajamas in their pod she shouts, "These are nicer than anything in my entire apartment!"
I was thrilled to see they kept in the scene where Nick, Rachel, Colin and Araminta (the groom and bride) explore a food hall. It reminded me of my recent dinner at 1-800-Lucky in Miami, where "Crazy Rich Asians" had a local premiere party.
Once settled in Singapore, Rachel meets up with her best friend from college, Peik Lin. In the book, Peik Lin had some of the most hysterical lines and that was even more true in the film. Actress Awkwafina plays Peik Lin, rocking a blond wig and absurd clothes.
I can't even pick a favorite scene of hers, because they all had me in stitches. The actors who played Peik Lin's parents and siblings were also a hoot.
As I had hoped, Araminta's bachelorette party got its moment in the sun, including the scene I had been waiting for - Rachel heading back to her villa after a massage to find a dead fish in her bed and a nasty message on the wall about her being a gold digger. She survives the shock with the help of Nick's cousin, Astrid, played by Gemma Chan. In the book, Astrid is a central character. She is Nick's best ally and her marriage to startup founder, Michael, gets a lot of air time. In the book she's portrayed as kind, brilliant and a Singapore fashion icon. I felt like they cut out a lot of her back story in the film. If you hadn't read the book, you might not understand how significant she is (and will become in part two).
Leading up to Colin and Araminta's wedding, Rachel must survive meeting Nick's entire family, including his mother, Eleanor, played by Michelle Yeoh. Eleanor does not approve of Rachel and wastes no time letting her know it.
I could not wait to see Colin and Araminta's wedding ceremony and reception. I had imagined it larger than life. On screen, Araminta walks down the aisle to the most moving rendition of "Fools Rush In." I'm going to lie, I teared up a little. The reception was spectacular and looked like a theme park. Exiting the movie, we were obsessed with guessing how much it cost to create that set.
*MAJOR SPOILER ALERT!*
My one disappointment with the movie was that they changed the ending. In the film, Nick's mother winds up giving her blessing (and her engagement ring) for Nick to use when he proposes to Rachel, which is not how it goes down in the book. It felt like they tried to wrap everything up with a pretty little bow, when the tension between Eleanor and Rachel actually makes the story much more interesting and real. I was pretty miffed by that inauthentic Hollywood ending.
And speaking of Hollywood, this article "The Stakes Are High for 'Crazy Rich Asians' — And That's the Point" details how Kevin Kwan turned down Netflix because he felt so strongly this movie be in theaters across the country.
If you read the books, I am so curious to hear - did you think Henry Golding and Constance Wu made a good Nick and Rachel?