Was “Crazy Rich Asians” truly a success?

  By Jhasmine Cadiente

 

I remember seeing the preview for this movie and the excitement I felt when I announced to all my friends and family that I would see it. The movie was released in U.S. theaters on August 15, 2018. After watching the movie, I was beyond happy and impressed. Even after that day, I went back to the movie theaters to watch this movie two more times. I loved this movie, but not everyone does.

In the article, “Crazy Rich Asians”: Director Jon M. Chu hopes to inspire other storytellers, open Hollywood doors,” Chu describes his personal struggle of tackling his own identity, with his key message of the movie: “Everyone’s trying to find their place.” (Yamato 2018) With the movie being an all-Asian cast, it was almost certain that this movie would be a success all over Asia. However, this movie was the last thing that China wanted to see. Why? This romantic comedy had earned $173 million in the United States and was a hit in Singapore theaters, as this was where the movie was set, but China’s industry data show that the film made $1.2 million. (Rodeen 2018) Although the film was a hit in the United States, the poor performance in China alludes to the current China-U.S. relationship, where Chinese film industry veteran Wei Junzi says, “‘you think you know about China, but in reality, you don’t’.” (Rodeen 2018) As this film had an all-Asian cast, this gained excitement for those abroad, but in China, as well as other places in Asia, an all-Asian cast is less valuable because they can see “all-Asian- faces” every day. Furthermore, the film displays extremely wealthy Chinese Singaporeans and their entitlement, which may have turned viewers away, especially in a country with a widening wage gap. (Rodeen 2018)

Another reason that the film did not perform well in China is that the government decides when a
movie will open. According to the NPR story, “Why ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Missed The Mark In
China’s Box Offices,” Ben Fritz says, “it opened a few months after it did here, so, of course,
piracy has been a big factor for people. People in China who want to see it may have pirated it
online or via DVD.” Most people that truly want to watch a movie and cannot wait for it to come
to theaters will find ways of watching it.

Although there are many reasons as to why this film was not as successful in China than it was in
the United States, the bigger picture is looking at geographical and cultural differences.
Personally, as an Asian American watching the film from the United States, I think that the
storyline of the film, as well as the overtly extravagant and expensive lifestyle of the main
characters, is entertaining. I found myself excited to watch this movie and proud to be an Asian
American. I found myself relating to Chu’s main message of trying to find my place, but this
may not be the case for everyone. Based on where I was raised and the cultural norms of the
United States, I find this film exciting and enjoyable. I feel like I can fit in because there are so
many Asian Americans in the United States that long for representation, especially in cinema. I
can say, “Wow, I’m so proud to be an Asian American,” after watching a successful movie like
this one. How does that apply to people outside of the United States?

For Singapore, it was a hit because the movie was mainly filmed there. And, although the cast of
this film was mostly Chinese-Singaporean, it dives into a different perspective than many people
in China. Also, the film sparks pride in the Asian Americans living in the United States, but can
be different for people outside of the country. As a film produced in the United States, there is
the perception that it is no longer authentic. Disney’s 1998 animated classic “Mulan” is another
upcoming film that is aimed at Chinese audiences, which boasts having an almost entirely
Chinese cast. (Rodeen 2018) The success of this film, however, will be based on authenticity, as
Wei states, “‘Will this be just another movie about Chinese culture, with you Americans’ own
interpretation?’.” Chu may have been trying to reach Asian Americans, in which the struggle to
find one’s identity in America is one faced by many, but he hit a dead-end when trying to reach
those outside of the U.S.

 

References:
Kelly, M.L. (Host). (2018, December 4). Why ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Missed The Mark In China
Box Offices [Radio broadcast episode]. https://www.npr.org/2018/12/04/673398040/why-crazy-rich-asians-missed-the-mark-in-chinas-box-offices

Rodeen, C. (2018, December 5). ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ not clicking with Chinese audiences. ABC
News. Retrieved from https://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/wireStory/crazy-rich-asians-clicking-chinese-audiences-59618155

Yamato, J. (2018, August 10). ‘Crazy Rich Asians’: Director Jon M. Chu hopes to inspire other
storytellers, open Hollywood doors. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/movies/la-et-mn-crazy-rich-asians-jon-m-chu-20180810-story.html

Photo credit: Sanja Bucko/Warner Bros. Entertainment, via Associated Press

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