Singapore gives 'Crazy Rich Asians' warm box office reception

Teng Yong Ping
Lifestyle Editor
Constance Wu as Rachel Wu and Henry Golding as Nick Young in “Crazy Rich Asians”. (PHOTO: Warner Bros)

Even as Crazy Rich Asians drew some flak for not accurately representing Singapore, local filmgoers spoke with their wallets as the film grossed $2.5 million in its opening week, a phenomenal performance for a romantic comedy here.

Playing on 120 screens across the island, the Hollywood flick took top spot at the box office from its premiere last Tuesday night (21 August) until Sunday. Opening week earnings for romantic comedies in Singapore traditionally reach a fraction of the figure achieved by Crazy Rich Asians.

The film’s success was due in part to the #GoldOpen movement that spread to Singapore from the US, which involves entrepreneurs and celebrities buying out entire cinema theatres to screen it. The effort aims to bolster the financial performance of the film in support of it being a historic milestone for Asian representation in Hollywood.

A Warner Bros spokesperson said many companies and individuals in Singapore booked entire theatres to screen Crazy Rich Asians.

Singapore on the big screen

Singaporeans were also curious to see how their country was portrayed in the film – which marks the nation’s most ambitious production collaboration with Hollywood to date.

Set in the glitzy world of the city’s ultra-rich, the film was adapted from Singapore-born American author Kevin Kwan’s best-selling novel of the same name. It follows the obstacles that Chinese-American Rachel Chu encounters when she travels with her boyfriend Nick Young to Singapore to meet his wealthy family.

Since its US premiere on 15 August, Crazy Rich Asians has led the box office there for a second weekend with US$25 million in ticket sales, after taking US$35.3 million across North America in its opening week.

While the film has received mostly glowing reviews from American audiences, film critics and activists in Singapore said it did not capture the city-state’s ethnic diversity. Still, most Singaporeans appear to recognise that the film is just a piece of light-hearted entertainment and are prepared to let some minor flubs pass.

Here are some reactions from Singaporeans who have watched Crazy Rich Asians (may contain mild spoilers):

  • Emeric Lau, 39, brand consultant: “What makes the film great is that it’s really about family values, which are universal to people everywhere. The ostentatious luxury is just the gloss that raises the movie’s visual appeal. The book doesn’t contain much in the way of characters from non-Chinese ethnic groups, and the movie reflects that. It does reflect reality to some degree if you look up the list of the richest Singaporeans – the majority of them are Chinese.”
  • Jovis Ang, 28, civil servant: “I think most people wouldn’t go into this movie demanding to see a multiracial representation. It is a light-hearted movie which was produced based on the book, so the story or characters are expected to follow the book. I think there is a fair mix of Singlish and American and British English in the movie.
  • Jireh Tan, 32, data scientist: “The film was too Chinese; the only non-Chinese I can remember from the film are the security guards. Although Singapore was portrayed very well from a touristic point of view, most locals don’t actually live that kind of life, and it is unclear whether that is how crazy rich Singaporeans live their life either.”
  • Faizal Pahmee, 34, infrastructure engineer: “This movie showcases the Young family whose wealth is from old money. There are not that many Malays or Indians in that world. I have some friends from that world; they are mostly Chinese too and it is okay. The movie is about crazy rich Asians, after all.”
  • Bryan Tan, 30, English tutor: “Koh Chieng Mun really stole the show with the aunty-next-door Singlish! Even though it’s touted as a breakthrough Asian film, I wouldn’t harp on the fact of not having proper representation of Singaporeans too much; it’s supposed to be a work of fiction and a rom-com, and we should just treat it as such and enjoy!”

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