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Crazy Rich Asians

January 09, 2019


In the late summer and fall of 2018 a tsunami of publicity for the movie Crazy Rich Asians hit America. In August there was a write-up in the New York Post, New Yorker and the Weekend Financial Times (a big, bold headline on the front page – very unusual).

The cover of the book (published in 2013) that I purchased at Barnes & Noble – it’s such a hot seller they have them stacked up at the Information Desk. As of Jan. 3, 2019 the worldwide gross for the movie was $239,024,812, against a production budget of $30 million  – WOW!

In September an eight-page piece in Vanity Fair appeared, then a second eight-pager with an article by Kevin Kwan, the author of the book Crazy Rich Asians was in Bazaar. I’ve just scratched the surface.

On Wednesday, September 5th we headed over to the Kips Bay theatre for a 6:00 pm showing.


This is a romantic comedy set amid Singapore’s moneyed aristocracy that tells the story of a young lady, Rachel Chu, who is a professor at NYU. She falls in love with Nick Young (played by Henry Golding). He invites her to visit Singapore, his homeland, where he is to be best man at the wedding of an old school friend. He fails to mention that he is the scion of one of Asia’s wealthiest families. That’s the whole story: a young female from a modest background battles to find her place amid the snobbery of the upper strata.


Much to Chu’s surprise, they fly first class to Singapore. The scene is elegant and awesome. But is it real?  “No airline has first class the way it’s shown in Crazy Rich Asians,” says production designer, Nelson Coates, who worked with a team of art directors, floral designers and decorative painters from 12 different countries to bring the book, Crazy Rich Asians to life. After being turned down by a major Asian airline, Coates and his team decided to take matters into their own hands. 

And, since we’re on the subject, let’s take a look at airports. “I can’t believe Singapore’s Changi airport has a cinema and a butterfly garden,” says Rachel Chu (played by Constance Wu) early in the film. Then she adds, “JFK is just salmonella and despair.” (I’ve often thought that about LaGuardia.) 


The bridal group heads off by private jet to a tropical island while the groomsmen go on helicopters to a container ship that has been transformed into a nightclub at sea. As the evening’s antics escalate, one guest fires a bazooka into the night sky. The front of a Rolls Royce was cut off to become a DJ booth. “Remember, these people aren’t just rich, they’re crazy rich,” says one character.

Actor Henry Golding (Nick Young) and actress Gemma Chan as fashionista Astrid Leong who buys $1.2 million earrings on a whim in the movie

Photo: Courtesy of Vanity Fair, September 2018


One of the stars, Henry Golding, who is the son of a Malaysian mother and a British father, looks as if he was born to be a movie star. Another standout is Rachel’s friend Peik Lin Goh (played by Nora Lum, stage name: Awkwafina). She is bursting with comedic talent. Even the minor characters have style. One matriarch says, “I heard this wedding cost $40 million.” “That’s too much,” her companion replies. “$20 million is our limit.”


Our reaction, when we watched this movie, was that the writer of the book was very familiar with this world. We were right. Kevin Kwan was born and raised in Singapore. He moved to the U.S. when he was 11 years old. His family tree goes back to the year 946. He says, “I grew up with a posh English accent – all my aunts sounded as if they came out of a Merchant Ivory movie.” Kwan also notes, “I knew women who took the Concorde from Singapore to Paris via London twice a year for their couture fittings.”

Kevin Kwan, author of Crazy Rich Asians Photo: Courtesy of Bazaar, September 2018


This 537-page book is more detailed than the movie but still has lots of crazy fun. Kwan is a talented writer who excels in describing over-the-top characters and moving the plot at a furious pace. It’s Dynasty on steroids.

Shaun Nelson-Henrick

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