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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, August 7, 2018
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‘Crazy Rich Asians’

Rock & Refuge

The drumbeating for the film version of Kevin Kwan’s international best-seller, “Crazy Rich Asians” has started. Expectedly, we will soon be fed with more details about it. Of course, detail no. 1 that will engage Pinoys is the five-minute participation of our Kris Aquino who joins the all-Asian cast for this Hollywood production.

Crazy Rich Asians the book was a groundbreaking look at the wealth that Asians have built over the years and the ridiculously lavish lifestyle that that has fueled: five-star private planes with discos, cinemas and spas in them, on-the-spot foreign travels, couture clothes and other branded things: bags, shoes, jewelry, fantastic high-rises and villas, French nannies and accoutrements only the mega-wealthy can afford. To describe how rich the characters are, Kwan has coined a term, “China rich” as in: “They’re not just super rich, they’re China rich!”

CRA the movie is groundbreaking for its use of an all-Asian cast, although many in the cast were born in America to Asian parents. Too, it is the first movie that offers a visual look into the lives of the rich in Asia, a thoroughly Asian story that is going to be served to the world. How it will fare is worth watching. But there are already two sequel books waiting in the wings, “China Rich Girlfriend” and “Rich People Problems.” both also international best-sellers.

This is basically simply a love story, happening in the new Asian setting of extreme wealth. Nicholas Young a history professor in New York brings his girlfriend, American-born Rachel Chu, to Singapore, his native land, setting the stage for much of the drama involving all sorts of rich people: the unbelievably rich. The newly rich, the old rich, the wannabe rich.

As the lovers try to adjust to the local lifestyle, we are treated to a succession of unbelievably hilarious details: how one family bought a London hotel because they were shooed away by the manager when they checked in; how a lovelorn swain raced the plane of his girlfriend so he arrived in Heathrow ahead of her to welcome her with a bouquet of flowers [they were only 18, by the way]; a bachelorette party in a private island, with the guests given 20 minutes to pick out anything from the branded souvenir shop; a residential estate hidden in the middle of Singapore that does not appear in the Google maps.

There are hilarious details of course. My favorite is the one where Chinese tycoons were eating a Ferran Adria dinner of molecular cuisine, where the food forms are deconstructed. One tycoon quipped: The menu here says this is Peking Duck. Where’s the duck? Where’s the damn duck??”

Like any love team in the movies, Nick and Rachel have to contend with a lot of things to prove their love for each other: his disapproving grandmother and mother, portrayed by Michelle Yeo; intriguing socialites and social climbers. No spoilers yet so I’ll leave it at that.

I don’t know how much of the book went into the movie. When books are translated into movies, they usually cut out some things. Remember ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’?

The first stills to come out has Kris talking to Rachel, which I cannot recall as part of the book. The pivotal scene of the Princess of Sarawak that Kris is supposed to play was with Nick’s grandmother and a social climbing porn star from HongKong. I wonder if they have cut that out and created new scenes for Kris.

My favorite character is Shang Su Yi, the grand matriarch whose word is gospel. She lives a life of parties, 20 maids, Thai ladies in waiting willed to her by the King of Thailand during his time; hours spent in the greenhouse, a collection of rare orchids and style that Negrenses, especially those from the order generation of , could relate to. She also has a very rare flower that blooms very rarely she throws a party when they do. She looks and appears domesticated, but eventually she is revealed as a cunning, manipulative and intelligent woman who earned a medal from the Queen of England for what she did in the last world war.

In a country where audiences measure the length of the stars’ screen time as the gauge for their importance, some people have pooh poohed Kris’ participation as cameo or guest role, or worse, as an extra. But this is not so in America; they hardly care about screen time. Anthony Hopkins’ famous role in Silence of the Lamb was all of 12 minutes and he got a Best Actor Oscar for it. Viola Davis was given Best Supporting Actress for her 8-minute performance in Doubt. I’m not saying Kris can win an Oscar for this, of course not! But it’s not fair to dismiss her role as cameo or guest.*

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