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Where EAST meets the Northwest

 

MULTIGENERATIONAL MOVIE. Alice Sue, left, and her daughter, Audrey Sue-Matsumoto, laugh during an interview after watching the movie Crazy Rich Asians in Daly City, California. It was Sue’s second time watching the movie. When Crazy Rich Asians surpassed expectations and grabbed the top spot in its opening weekend, the film also pulled off another surprising feat: It put Asians of a certain age in theater seats. (AP Photo/Jeff Chi)

 

From The Asian Reporter, V28, #17 (September 3, 2018), page 7.

Crazy Rich Asians draws immigrant parents to the movies

By Terry Tang

The Associated Press

When Crazy Rich Asians surpassed expectations and grabbed the top spot at the box office in its opening weekend, the film also pulled off another surprising feat: It put Asians of a certain age in theater seats.

Younger Asian Americans have been flocking with their parents to see the first movie in 25 years with an all-Asian cast.

For many older, first-generation Asian immigrants, going to the movies doesn’t rank high among hobbies and interests. The crowds, the language barrier, and ticket prices are often turnoffs.

But the appeal of Crazy Rich Asians, the story of a culture clash that erupts when an Asian-American woman from New York meets her boyfriend’s family in Singapore, has bridged a real-life generation gap.

Earning more than $100 million since its August 15 release, the film already has a sequel in development.

An adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s bestselling novel, the rom-com is poised to hit the $100 million mark due to its popularity and a lack of strong competition in the coming weeks, comScore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian said.

"The over-performance of Crazy Rich Asians shows the power of a great movie with universal themes to draw all audiences and also to break down preconceived notions of what can constitute a box office hit," Dergarabedian said.

Broken down by ethnicity, Asians made up nearly 40 percent of the film’s audience during its opening weekend, Warner Bros said. By comparison, Asian/Pacific Islanders comprised just 10 percent of the audience in the opening days of last year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming, according to an analysis done by comScore/Screen Engine’s PostTrak.

The jump can be partly credited to enthusiastic Asian Americans who wanted their parents to be part of what the film’s star, Constance Wu, has called a "movement."

Lie Shia Ong-Sintzel, 36, of Seattle talked her parents into coming along the second time she saw the movie. It was the first time in five years the couple — Chinese immigrants from Indonesia — had been to the cinema.

"They don’t really go to movies in the theater. I usually have to drag them," Ong-Sintzel said. "I felt like this was a big occasion — a movie with an all-Asian cast."

Looking at her parents, she cried because everything from the acting to the food seemed to resonate more. She wasn’t the only one.

"I looked over again, my dad was wiping tears from his eyes," Ong-Sintzel said.

In Temple City, California, Catherine Fanchiang, 27, who is Taiwanese American, went to see the film a third time to keep her parents company.

Fanchiang’s mother, Kao Han Fan, also wanted to see the movie because she recognized Michelle Yeoh, who plays a wary matriarch. But it was Wu’s character who touched the 64-year-old the most. Fan said she liked how the story depicted an "ABC" (American-born Chinese) who showed Asian cultural values such as putting family first.

"When you grow up in an Asian family ... it will be in your mind when you do something, you will always think about other people," Fan said. "You are not really, really selfish, thinking about yourself."

Fanchiang enjoyed watching her parents see an American film with Asians that wasn’t a period piece.

"It was just a regular movie that just happens to have Asian people in it. It’s not like we’re ninjas or we’re good at fighting. It’s Asians existing in the modern world," Fanchiang said.

The stars and director Jon M. Chu have said they wanted the film to showcase Asians who weren’t stereotypes or little-used side players.

In the case of Alice Sue and her daughter, Audrey Sue-Matsumoto, the 67-year-old mother saw the movie first. She went a second time in the San Francisco Bay Area suburb of Daly City with her daughter. Sue, who is Chinese, doesn’t go to the movies much but knew she had to see this one.

"It’s talking about Asian culture. It’s real Asians mixed with American-born Asians," Sue said. "And I want to support the Asian movies."

Sue-Matsumoto, 35, said there probably wasn’t a more fitting film for the two to see together.

"It was good to watch it with my mom because I feel like it was very relatable in our situation," Sue-Matsumoto said. "She’s an immigrant, and I’m American-born. That movie has that generational distinction."

For Mark Gadia, 36, of Chula Vista, California, the movie led to him learning more about his parents’ courtship in the Philippines. His parents related to Wu and Henry Golding’s star-crossed couple because of how his mother was treated by her future in-laws.

"She apparently wasn’t good enough for my dad. It took this movie to make this revelation of how they met," Gadia said.

He did not expect to come away having enjoyed seeing the film alongside his parents as much as he did.

"As sappy as this sounds, it’s something I’ll always remember," Gadia said. "It’s kind of sad it took 25 years, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to have this experience as an adult."

* * *

DIFFERING VIEWS. Constance Wu (center) plays Rachel in the Warner Bros. Pictures, SK Global Entertainment, and Starlight Culture contemporary romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians, which opened in U.S. theaters on August 15. Also pictured are Nico Santos (left) as Oliver and Koh Chieng Mun (right) as Neenah Goh. The craze for Crazy Rich Asians has hit Asia, with a premiere in Singapore followed by openings in several neighboring countries. (Photo/Sanja Bucko, courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. and Kimmel Distribution, LLC)

From The Asian Reporter, V28, #17 (September 3, 2018), page 16.

Crazy Rich Asians hoopla elicits mixed feelings in Asia

By Derek Cai

The Associated Press

SINGAPORE — The craze for Crazy Rich Asians has hit Asia, with a premiere in Singapore followed by openings in several neighboring countries.

Much of the over-the-top romantic comedy was set in the wealthy city-state. As the stars streamed past flashing lights down the red carpet, local fans and tourists swarmed around them taking photos and asking for selfies.

The movie is expected to draw enthusiastic crowds across Asia after its box-office bonanza in the U.S.

Directed by John M. Chu, the film was adapted from Singaporean author Kevin Kwan’s best-selling novel of the same name. It follows Chinese-American Rachel Chu as she travels with her boyfriend Nick Young to Singapore to meet his family and discovers they are ultra-wealthy.

The movie is drawing a mixed reaction so far. Admirers of the film say that as the first majority Asian-cast film in more than two decades to be released by a major Hollywood studio it upends Hollywood’s usual stereotypes of Asian characters. Critics say it misses a chance to showcase the city’s ethnic diversity.

The $30 million Warner Bros. film has grossed more than $100 million since its August 15 world debut in Los Angeles.

"This (movie) is something very personal to people, and it feels like a bigger movement than just the movie itself," Chu, the director, told The Associated Press.

The film has drawn criticism for its inaccurate portrayal of Singapore’s ethnic diversity, with some calling it a misrepresentation of the country’s minority races. Even though a majority of its residents are Chinese, a quarter of its population are Malay, Indian, or Eurasians, with many migrant workers from surrounding countries such as Bangladesh or the Philippines.

"There’s this whole notion of the movie being a triumph for representation, which is very problematic. The only Indians and Malays you see are servants," said Nicholas Yong, a Singaporean journalist and author who saw the movie before its Singapore premiere.

Even though its glamorous depiction of Singapore could give its tourism a boost, it was not entirely welcomed.

"To us, Crazy Rich should not just be about the opulence and luxury showcased in the film, but Singapore’s actual richness in terms of our diversity," said Lynette Pang, a spokesperson for the Singapore Tourism Board.

As is true anywhere, in Singapore, the super-rich with their extravagant lifestyles are a tiny, privileged minority.

Writing in the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong, which has more than its share of tycoons and elite wealthy families, commentator Alex Lo said he enjoyed the film with "guilty pleasure."

"But amusement aside, it strikes me the whole purpose of the film exercise is to glamorize and legitimize the super-rich in Asia, many of whom are ethnic Chinese in real life," he said.

"Should we, as the audience and hoi polloi, be tantalized and awed by the display of mega wealth, which has been described, by most accounts, as accurate. Or should we rather be repelled?"

Many in Asia had looked forward to seeing some familiar faces.

In Manila, the Philippines, an audience of mostly movie writers, critics, and bloggers, and some celebrity guests, were thrilled and applauded when two Filipinos in the film, Kris Aquino and Nico Santos, appeared in their roles during an advance screening, said Ruth Navarra-Mayo, an editor of the Lifestyle section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper.

Santos plays a fashion designer. Aquino, a popular actress and daughter of late pro-democracy champions in the Philippines, played a member of Malay royalty.

A former American colony, the Philippines has a highly westernized culture and Hollywood movies are a local entertainment staple. Audiences would welcome more films with Asian themes and characters, Navarro-Mayo said.

"We want to see Asian actors on Asian topics," Navarro-Mayo said. "We’re hungry and ready for this type of film."

Associated Press writer Jim Gomez in Manila contributed to this report.

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