Danielle Schultz–Staff Writer
Based on author Kevin Kwan’s international bestseller, the romantic comedy that is Crazy Rich Asians became the first Hollywood film since 1993 to have an all-Asian cast, earning more than $26 million at the box office its opening weekend after it was released August 15th.
The film has not lost momentum. Currently, it has earned more than $143 million domestically and $174 million worldwide, stealing the number one position at the box office three weeks in a row.
Crazy Rich Asians follows New York economics professor Rachel Chu as she agrees to travel to Singapore with her long-time boyfriend, Nick Young, to his best friend’s wedding. Little does she know that Nick’s family is extremely wealthy and prestigious, and Nick is one of the island’s most popular bachelors. She is thrown into a world of high-stakes and deception as she tries to navigate her relationship with Nick’s disproving mother, Eleanor.
Directed by Jon Chu and starring Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, and Gemma Chan, among others, Crazy Rich Asians is a huge step forward to having more Asian representation in Hollywood films.
“This shows—once again, with emphasis—that true diversity matters,” producer Brad Simpson told the New York Times. “Audiences are tired of seeing the same stories with the same characters, and we have to give people a reason to get off their couch or devices. We have to give them something different.”
Crazy Rich Asians success is especially visible with the trend of whitewashing Asian characters, such as the casting of Tilda Swinton as the “Ancient One” in Doctor Strange, or the casting of Scarlett Johansson as Motoku Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell.
Director Jon Chu is hopeful this will lead to more diverse casting in Hollywood films.
“I hope in ten years, we look back at this moment and we forget all about it. We’re like, that was a thing? An all-Asian cast was a thing?” Director Chu told CBS News.
As far as initial reactions go, Dordt sophomore Yovela Belicia was “surprised…how they [the filmmakers] kept the cultural aspects authentic,” including food and scenery not typical of the Western worldview Hollywood films usually adopt. “It made me feel proud of my heritage,” she said, referring to her home country of Indonesia.
Likewise, sophomore David Riadi commented that he could better “relate to some of the stuff they’re doing” in the film compared to other Hollywood movies he’s seen.
“It feels good because I am an Asian. I saw one or two Asian actor or actress in a Hollywood film, but this is my first time to see an all-Asian cast in a Hollywood film,”said Juhun Kim, a junior at Dordt.
When asked if he thought it would lead to more diversity in Hollywood films, Riadi said “Definitely. It’s a start. Asian casts are not common. People felt excited.”
Belicia agreed. “Because it’s so popular, it would encourage more filmmakers to step up and cast more Asians. They [people] appreciate the message of it or maybe they are curious about the diversity.”
In August, before the release of the film, Chu had told The New York Times, “If we make a decent showing on that first weekend, there are like six Asian-American lead movies set up at different studios. They’re not greenlit. Everyone’s waiting to see how this one does. But if this one does well, we’ll immediately have more chances. And if it doesn’t, we’ll just have to do it again.”
It’s safe to say that Crazy Rich Asians is doing more than well at the box office. Just to prove it, two more movies featuring Asian leads, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before starring Lana Condor and Searching starring John Cho, have since been released on both Netflix and the big screen.
Hopefully there are more to come.