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**Warning: Spoilers for both book and movie!**
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (2013)
Crazy Rich Asians directed by Jon M. Chu (2018)
This movie came out more recently, so I’m sure most people already know the story. The movie has a fairly different ending from the book though, and this synopsis will cover the books ending.
Nick invites his girlfriend of two years to join him in his home country of Singapore for the summer. She has never met his family (aside from one cousin) and their summer trip will start with the wedding of Nick’s best friend, wherein all his family and friends will be.
Turns out Nick comes from an insanely wealthy family; however, they are very private and only the ultra-elite even know about them. Because Nick was raised to not talk about his family or their money, he doesn’t bother giving Rachel a heads up about how rich they are. He also comes from a society where who you marry is a family affair and it needs to be someone from the proper background. His mom Eleanor as well as all the other women, old and young, are obsessed with finding as much out about Rachel as possible, and make sure Nick doesn’t want to marry her.
Rachel is tossed into this life and has to endure rude comments and backhanded compliments. She is also in shock of the sheer wealth of these people. She can’t believe Nick just threw her into this, and after several humiliating experiences tells him she is leaving. He tells her not to go, and that he will drive her somewhere private where it can just be the two of them. Once they arrive at the private location (his grandmothers vacation home, which he was dumb enough to tell his mom he was going to and also told her that he was going to propose to Rachel), once there he sees his mom and grandma sitting there. They tell him that he cannot marry Rachel, and that it is for her own good. They say she comes from a bad family and proceeds to provide evidence that her dad is in prison. She had been raised to believe her dad had died when she was a baby, so she is floored. They leave, and she goes to stay with a friend from college (Peik Lin) who is living in Singapore. She tells Nick they are over and after getting upset at her mom on the phone, decides to go to China to see her dad who is in prison.
Nick decides to do whatever it takes to get Rachel back and he flies to California to bring Rachel’s mom to Singapore. Before Rachel can leave for the plane to China, Nick and her mom show up and the mom explains the situation and how the guy in prison had been her husband, but he isn’t Rachel’s dad. In the end, everyone is happy and Nick cuts his family off in order to be with Rachel.
Also, there is a side story with Nick’s cousin Astrid. She and her husband Michael have been married almost five years and have a son. Michael doesn’t come from the insanely rich families, and even though he makes good money, it’s nothing compared to her families’ wealth. She finds out he has been cheating on her, and when she confronts him he says he’ll move out. She doesn’t want that, she wants to work through it, but he persists in moving out. She later confronts him while he’s alone in what she assumes to be his mistress’s apartment. Turns out he faked the affair as a way to make a divorce easier. He doesn’t like being part of her family and wants out. She tried to convince him to stay and that she would cut her family out for his sake, but he says he can’t possibly make her do that. In the end, she still loves him and wants him back, but is giving him the space, he wants. She also runs into her ex-fiancee Charlie, who is the one that helped her track down Michael. He convinces her to not grant the divorce for a year because he thinks Michael will come around. So this story line is left open with us not knowing what happens with their marriage.
Thoughts on Book
Some of the characters are a bit cliché, however they are much more fleshed out than the movie. It was written by a man, but obviously with a female audience in mind, using many rom-com cliches.
The story of Rachel’s mom and the whole things with her dad was also too cliché, both with the abuse her mom suffered at the hands of her husband, then the guy who helps rescue her and they fall in love. I don’t like it when stories of trauma are told in a romantic/lifetimey way, rather than the harsh reality that it truly is.
Constance Wu you may recognize from Fresh Off the Boat, and here she has the leading role as Rachel. Overall, I think she’s a good actress, nothing amazing about her performance, but no big complaints.
Henry Golding is Nick Young, and this is his first ever acting role! He was a travel host on a BBC travel show and was offered the role. He turned it down multiple times, saying he was sure there was an actual actor that would do better, but he eventually agreed. He does a good job and has since been in a handful of other movies.
Michelle Yeoh plays Eleanor Young gives a great performance. After watching this I went and watched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon which is such a great movie! She is an impressive martial artists and has been in a number of Jackie Chan movies and is the only female he ever had do her own stunts. The fight scenes in Crouching Tiger are all so good, and I don’t even usually like fight scenes! Plus, on top of the impressive martial arts, it also has a great story and wonderful acting. I know this is post is focused on Crazy Rich Asians, but I just want to say that if you haven’t yet watched Crouching Tiger, or if it’s been a while (since it is a 20 year old movie) I highly suggest you watch it!
But yeah, she does a great job playing the protective mother in Crazy Rich Asians.
Gemma Chan plays Astrid, her acting is good, but her character was pretty cliché in the movie version. Also, her face has that plastic surgery look and it could be distracting. In October 2012 she witnessed a murder of a homeless gentleman outside the Putney Bridge Tube station in West London. She stayed with the gentleman while medics and police were called, but he soon expired. In September 2013 she gave evidence in the trial of the defendant.
Awkwafina is someone who has risen to stardom these last few years and here she plays Peik Lin. Awkwafina became famous thanks to YouTube back in 2014 and has since been in some major films and has even won a Golden Globe.
The premise of both book and movie are the same, but there actually a number of changes. Some of which are pretty major!
Movie Differences-Nick and Rachel storyline
First off, is that Rachel is a card player and teachers it in college. In both she is an economics major, but in the book, she never does anything in regard to poker or anything like that.
In the book they had been dating just over two years, in the movie it’s one year. I’m guessing they changed that because to be dating someone for two years and never have met their family or even know much about them is pretty crazy! One year is a bit more normal.
The trip he invites her on in the book is over summer, and he invites her to travel Asia with him for 10 weeks. In the movie it is just for spring break.
In both the book and movie, word of Nick dating Rachel spreads because a girl in the coffee shop recognizes him and snaps a picture which is texted around. In the movie, word moves so fast, that his mom calls him while he is there discussing it with her. In the book Eleanor never calls Nick. After talking to Rachel, at some point he calls his mom to let her know, but she acts nonchalant. Eleanor though is calling around trying to figure out as much as possible. Including calling Astrid and playing it cool, to get info out of Astrid.
Things also move much faster in the movie of course. In the book, they aren’t even on their way to Singapore till about 100 pages in. The book switches between different perspectives, so in the beginning we are getting to know all the different characters and their lives. Which, by the way, there are a lot of characters in this book. There is a chart of the family tree in the beginning of the book to help you keep people in line, but still. I would lose track of who was who.
When they arrive in Singapore, in both, Arminta and Colin surprise them at the airport and take them out to eat. The actress who plays Arminta is Sonoya Mizuno who is amazing. She is so versatile, and just becomes whatever character she’s playing. She’s been in movies where she plays someone very serious, or roles like this where she is loud and boisterous, she was also in La La Land, where she sang and danced! She is so underrated, and I would love to see her be in more leading roles. She is a great choice for Arminta though because he character is a super model and Mizuno definitely has that look. It must have been an exciting role too since she got to get all dressed up for the wedding scene.
When Rachel goes to Peik Lin’s house we meet her family. Her dad is played by non-other than Ken Jeong who everyone will recognize. He is the famous comedian who used to be a doctor, before pursuing his dreams of comedy and improve. He has been in an episode of The Office, was in Community, not to mention The Hangover movies.
In the book, Rachel mentions that it is the wedding of Colin Khoo she is going to. When she says this they all stop eating and are like are you serious?? When they ask who her boyfriend is, they don’t even recognize the name. In the book, the Young’s are so private that not many people even know who they are, or who much money they have. Peik Lin’s dad has connections though and has a guy he goes to talk to to figure out who these Young’s are.
Whereas in the movie, she mentions Nick Young, and they stop eating and are like what?? So in the movie, the Young’s aren’t the private family they are in the book.
When Peik Lin drops Rachel off at Ah Ma’s house for the flower blooming party, in the movie Nick invites her to join them. In the book, this was a very exclusive event, Peik Lin is hoping to be invited, but she isn’t. He also doesn’t even tell Rachel about the event till like an hour before it takes place! He seriously is just bursting things on her with little notice throughout this whole story.
Rachel meets Eleanor while at this event, however in the book, she specifically went out of town the weekend Nick arrived. Trying to make a power move or something, by not bothering to be around to meet Rachel right away.
Rachel also talks to Ah Ma while at this event, however, in the book they only briefly say hi. Nick later goes up to her and is talking to her and asks if she wants to have Rachel come over and Ah Ma says no because too many people would be watching. She then invites them to come and stay at her place the rest of the time and she can get to know her then. In the book, Nick tells Rachel that his Ah Ma has the best scones, in this movie it’s dumplings. Though in the book, she doesn’t cook them herself, her cooks do it.
We have the actor Nic Santos playing Oliver, who you may recognize if you watch the show Superstore.
We then have the whole bachelorette and bachelor parties. Starting with the bachelorette-Rachel meets a girl named Amanda who she befriends. Amanda later shows that she isn’t her friend at all and ultimately is with the group who is trying to scare Rachel off. In the book Amanda doesn’t show up until the wedding. There was another girl named Francesca who was the main one getting to Rachel. While at the bachelorette party she meets a girl named Sophie who shows up late and befriends her. In the book Sophie isn’t tricking Rachel but is a genuine friend. When she finds the gutted fish in her room, she goes to Sophie and tells her and says they should call security. Sophie tells her that’s just what the girls want, and that she shouldn’t play into their hands. In the movie, Astrid shows up late and Rachel hangs out with her. (No Sophie character in the movie.) When they see the fish, Astrid says they should call security, but Rachel says that no she’s not going to do what they would expect.
With the bachelor party, in both book and movie the character Bernard is in charge of hosting it. In the movie he says, “dog fighting, hookers, drugs, that all rookie bachelor party stuff” and proceeds to fly them to this giant cruise type ship where there is this crazy party. All that stuff he mentions, “dog fighting, hookers, drugs” is actually what he has them do in the book. Of course, this is a chick flick, so Nick and Colin are the likeable guys who aren’t interested in any of that. In the book they end up on a ship as well, but Colin, Nick and another guy who isn’t in the movie, get a helicopter to fly them to Australia where they enjoy the desert sunset while drinking a flat white.
In the movie, he and Colin leave the party and while off doing their own thing, Colin tried to talk Nick out of getting serious with Rachel. This never happened in the book, Colin actually encouraged Nick to go for it if he really loved her.
Oh, and also, Eddie wasn’t invited to the bachelor party. His character was bigger in the book, because he was one of the ones we would get a first-hand account of. As dislikable as he is in the movie, he’s even more so in the book.
When they get back, Rachel tells Nick all of this and he comforts her. In the book though, she keeps all of it to herself. Then they go to meet Eleanor at what they think will be a private dinner with just Nick’s parents. Turns out Eleanor invited other people as well, that way she would have more people in her corner to help interrogate Rachel. There is some drama between Eleanor and Rachel, but in the movie, they played it up more. They have the one scene on the stairs where Eleanor tells Rachel she will never be enough, along with her whole thing about how American it is to pursue your passions, plus the end scene. None of these interactions took place in the book. The movie also has drama between Ah Ma and Eleanor, but in the book that isn’t said.
There is also a line in the book when Ah Ma is alone with Rachel, Ah Ma says how she knows what kind of person someone is by looking at their face. She ends saying, “I see your face.” before Nick walks back in. In the movie this doesn’t happen. Though there is a scene where Ah Ma tells Rachel she has a good nose.
Also, in the movie, they go make dumplings and Rachel says how great it is because she doesn’t have family, just her and her mom. This wasn’t the case in the book, she has uncles, cousins and all who live in California. They are the reason her mom was able to go to America in the first place.
Then the day of the wedding, Rachel actually does sit with some of Nick’s family, not with the princess who had wanted to be left alone like she does in the movie.
Afterwards, they go to where the tea party thing is (in the book the wedding has three events, for which Rachel wears three different dress, first the actual wedding, then this tea party thing, then the reception later in the evening). Anyway, at the tea thing Nick takes her to this little alcove thing and he tells her how this is where he had his first kiss. It is almost romantic, until Amanda walks up, whom we are meeting for the first time. She brought a date, and when she walks up is like, ‘oh fancy meeting you here Nick, I was just coming over here to show so-and-so where I got my first kiss’. She then proceeds to get flirty with Nick, reminiscing on when they were teenage lovers.
Later, at the evening reception, Amanda continues to make remarks, followed by Francesca who talks about how she, Mandy and Nick had had a threesome. Rachel feels so humiliated and goes back to where they are staying and starts packing her bags. Nick finds her and asks what’s wrong. Everything she’s had the endure comes out and, in the end, Nick is able to comfort her. And this is when he takes her away to his Ah Ma’s summer home and all that drama plays out there.
During her time at Peik Lin’s, she does meet up with Nick and he tries to convince her that they don’t need to break up. She then says,
“I never want to be part of a family like yours. I can’t marry into a clan that thinks it’s too good to have me. And I don’t want my children to ever be connected to such people. I want them to grow up in a loving, nurturing home, surrounded by grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins who consider them equals. Because that’s ultimately what I have, Nick. You’ve seen it yourself, when you came home with me last Thanksgiving. You see what it’s like with my cousins. We’re competitive, we tease each other mercilessly, but at the end of the day we support each other. That’s what I want for my kids. I want them to love their family ily, but to feel a deeper sense of pride in who they are as indi visuals, Nick, not in how much money they have, what their last name is, or how many generations they go back to what ever dynasty. I’m sorry, but I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of being around all these crazy rich Asians, all these people whose lives revolve around making money, spending money, flaunting money, comparing money, hiding money, control ling others with money, and ruining their lives over money. And if I marry you, there will be no escaping it, even if we live on the other side of the world.”
Nick understands, and is going to give up on trying to get her back. But then, Colin comes back early from his honeymoon and convinces Nick that he should do whatever it takes to get Rachel back. Then, as I said in the synopsis, he flies to get her mom and stops talking to his mom to show his devotion to Rachel.
In the movie, they are having a good time at the reception, then Eleanor asks to see Nick and Rachel and she is with Ah Ma and they tell Nick he can’t be with her. She then tells her that her dad was a man her mom had been having an affair with. (So that whole thing has been changed, in the book they didn’t know the mom had an affair.)Rachel is so blindsided and rushes to leave the reception and goes to Peik Lin’s house.
While there she is depressed, then her mom shows up. She is happy to see her mom, and her mom tells her almost the same story as in the book, just a little different.
Her mom then tells her that Nick is the one who brought her here and that Rachel should see him.
They meet, and Nick proposes. The scene cuts before we see what she says. It then shows her meeting up with Eleanor at some place where people are playing Mahjong. While there she tells Eleanor that Nick proposed and that he said he would cut his family out in order to marry her. She says that she told him no, because she couldn’t make him do that.
Later we see Eleanor with Nick, basically giving him permission to marry Rachel.
Rachel is on a plane back to America when Nick gets on and proposes to her. (Which I mean, come one, hasn’t the whole airport/airplane thing been over done in romcoms??) They then leave the plane, and there is a huge party with everyone.
So, a very different ending than in the book.
Movie Differences-Astrid storyline
The whole thing with Astrid and Michael was a sub plot to the book. For starters, he doesn’t go to any of the events for the wedding. Before all that stuff happens, there is a family dinner where we see that Astrid’s dad doesn’t like Michael and her family treats him as someone who can solve their broken tech things. He actually has a successful company, but compared to Astrid’s family it looks like nothing. She does go on shopping sprees, but she doesn’t hide stuff around the house like she does in the movie. She just has a spare bedroom where she puts it all and tells Michael she is spending less than she actually is. Then she sees the text, and for the next month or so discovers other things that prove he is having an affair.
While driving home from the flower blooming party, she gets into a car accident because she is busy thinking of Michael and not paying attention. When she gets back from having been in the hospital she confronts him and he says he’ll move out.
The movie doesn’t have the car accident scene, instead she confronts him while they are on their way to the wedding. They get in an argument, and he gets out of the car. At this point in the book, he had already moved out. The movie also shows her confiding in Rachel, but in the book, she keeps everything to herself. In general, they just made Michael more unlikeable in the movie. He doesn’t seem to care about their son, which was not the case in the book. In the movie, apparently, he truly was having the affair and in the end, Astrid moves out, saying he can keep his apartment, and that she was 100 properties of which to choose from for herself. In the book, he knew about her properties because before getting married her brothers invite Michael to dinner. They show him Astrid’s properties and all the money she has, trying to intimidate him and scare him off. He also knows the true cost of her clothes, so he isn’t as unobservant as she thinks. Keeping in mind the quote above from Rachel, you can’t blame Michael really. Clearly this family is a lot and they are very judgmental of those who don’t come from the elite background.
In the book she meets an old flame while at the wedding, Charlie. They fly to Hong Kong, where Michael is, and that’s when she confronts him. Later, while talking to Charlie, he tells her that she has been trying to be someone she isn’t, as a way to try and be who she thinks Michael wants her to be. He kind of points out what she had been doing wrong, but in a nice way. In the end, like I said it isn’t clear which guy she will ultimately end up with, but I’m assuming she will get with Charlie.
In the credits, Harry Shum Jr is credited as playing Charlie, but he never has any scenes. I guess there’s a part where he is sitting at a bar and smiles at Astrid or something, but I never caught it. There must have been scenes with him but they ended up getting deleted. There is a book sequel, which will eventually be made into a movie, and I’m sure he’s the main guy with Astrid in that.
The book has many more details which were left out of the movie, but those are the major ones.
Book or Movie
The movie is definitely entertaining, and I love that it has an all Asian cast. The book has a lot of characters, and they tried to bring as many into the movie as they could. By trying to include as many people as possible, most of them end up being very one sided.
I wish they would have stuck to the original story in regard to Astrid, but other than that, the changes they did make didn’t bother me. Even changing the ending so that Eleanor approves of Rachel didn’t bother me, though I did find it cliché. Another thing with the book, there are like two or three times when some kind of sexual act is mentioned in a somewhat explicit way. Nothing too graphic, but it was enough that it surprised me because the movie (which I had first watched in 2018) is pretty clean as far as all that goes. Overall though, the book is better, as I said, you get to know the characters better. Even though there are the typical chick flick elements, it was less cliché than the movie.