Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Crazy Rich Asians

Jon M. Chu's Crazy Rich Asians is a Chinese Goodbye, Columbus. Of course there's a huge disparity in the kinds of wealth that both, the movie and Roth’s novella (later made into a film) describe. However, social stratification is the name of the game. The subclasses are pure bred Chinese (who happen to be inhabitants of Singapore) and Chinese-Americans. Nicholas Young (Henry Golding), the scion of fabulously wealthy family falls for Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), the daughter of an immigrant  raised in Flushing, Queens. His imperious mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) is not happy. The fact that Rachel is a professor at NYU with an interest in microeconomics and game theory (which she cleverly demonstrates in a mahjong match) provides a lens by which to deal with the question of wealth itself. Whether Rachel has heard of Thorstein Veblen or read about “conspicuous consumption,” she’s the petrie dish in which to see the interplay of class and materialism at work. Eleanor provides a rather subtle counterpart for though she maintains a dynastic interest in wealth preservation she’s opposed to the American model of social mobility. “All Americans think about is their own happiness,” she comments at one point. Despite these insights, Crazy Rich Asians is peculiarly insular, vacuous and indulgent of the manners and mores it satirizes. You go to the movie with the expectation of a banquet in which you will be satiated and amused and end up feeling empty.

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