Crazy Rich Asians – contains movie spoilers

Sang and I watched Crazy Rich Asians this weekend. Spoilers for the film below; I haven’t read the book.

The main impression the film left on me was how passive or absent the men were, and how it was the women wielding power and playing politics. I mean, Nick is such a cipher! Rachel’s a professor in the U.S., so even if she’s a new-ish adjunct she’s of an age to have a Ph.D. Nick maybe went to college and grad school in the U.S., and then…? does he have a…job? or…interests? I think he and Rachel were dating for a year, so what did they talk about if she’s got no idea of his family background? Gotta say, between his lack of a life and his unwillingness to stand up to anyone, Nick is not looking like a great prospect.

When they get to Singapore, Nick’s grandmother is on scene, but no grandfather. His father is…away on business for this whole thing? Part of the plot turns on Rachel’s father’s absence from her life. Astrid’s husband is emotionally absent and having a non-specific affair. Nick has one supportive guy friend among the wastrels; they have to flee friend’s own bachelor party to be able to have a conversation in peace. The plot is driven by Eleanor vs. Rachel with assists by Peik Lin, Astrid, and Su Yi.

Rachel is presented as the romantic, individualistic down-to-earth American. But I don’t think it’s an accident that she’s a professor of economics. The movie passes pleasantly with makeovers and wealth-flaunting parties. (To be honest, the biggest impression the wealth made on me was that Rachel and Nick arrived in Singapore well-rested and ready for several hours of partying. The rest of the spectacle– having a mega-party on a container ship instead of, say, a cruise ship that is literally designed for that? Having a wedding in which the aisle is flooded so pretty lights are reflected but also the bridal party is wading ankle-deep? –eh, I guess wealth brings pressure for novelty.) But when it comes down to it, Rachel literally turns down Nick’s ring and accepts Eleanor’s. Game is on! It doesn’t matter that Nick has been secretive and passive; he can go right on doing that or whatever (while looking hot), cause Rachel’s found her match and is gonna play with the big girls. I see her in a faculty position at YaleNUS during the sequel, getting ready for some competitively non-competitive child-raising–although they’ll still be socializing with all the tedious friends because they’re part of the playing field too. This movie is about what wealth means for women’s power, and I think Jane Austen would watch it with interest.

(I gather, from the Wikipedia articles about the book series, that Kevin Kwan does not share my vision.)