The Fug Girls made me read this. The photos of the premiers of Crazy Rich Asians were all just so glam. I obviously had to see the movie. I mean:
But I can’t see the movie if I haven’t read the book. So I obviously had to read the book.
By now you probably know the main plot: woman (Rachel) goes to Singapore to meet boyfriend’s (Nick) family. Turns out he’s rich like whoa. She is blindsided by the money, the lifestyle, and the toxic reactions by everyone – mom (Eleanor), aunties, eligible bachelorettes – to their relationship. She relies on her nouveau riche college friend in Singapore (Peik Lin) to navigate this circus. Hijinks ensue.
This was a perfectly fun read. It is fast and relatively lighthearted, making its point about the crazy rich with a little humor: rich people! they’re just like us! They might be swimming in money and real estate, but they still have to figure out how to communicate with their partners, how to apologize to their girlfriends, and how to talk to their mothers-in-law! But also, they rent out entire islands for parties.
The movie, however, was better. It, by necessity, condensed a lot of the sub-plots and minor characters into exactly that – minor characters. Cousin Eddie got lots of words in the book, but his presence in the movie was a few minutes. And those few minutes told you everything you need to know about him, and that was sufficient. Likewise, Eleanor’s friends didn’t get the screen time that the book gave them, nor the plot tangents (that whole discussion about hiring a private investigator, or shopping for fake bags), and that was just fine. Movies force you to show, don’t tell.
Moreover, the movie added some things that made the narrative more coherent. Rachel’s career actually mattered in the movie – she’s an econ professor who actually talks about game theory! In the book her career hardly came up at all; in fact, we hardly get to know her at all, besides the fact that she’s dating the world’s most eligible bachelor and isn’t crazy rich. I loved the mah jong scene at the end of the movie, where we see her smarts and her fierceness; and I like that it was foreshadowed by a poker game at the beginning. I loved the added dumpling-making scene, which was awkward and wonderful and sets up the showdown at the end. I loved the scene where her mom shows up! In fact, the movie treated that whole relationship much more lovingly, I think. The book focused too much, in my opinion, on the single ladies trying to destroy Rachel (that whole final scene at Colin’s wedding with the ex-gf, ugghh) but the movie reigns that in and focuses instead on the family tension. That was a good choice. It made the narrative less chaotic.
The one thing I really didn’t like in the book-to-movie translation was the treatment of Astrid and her marriage. The book really highlighted the couple’s communication problems, and her husband was much more sympathetic, even though they both made serious mistakes. They both love each other, and they each even fight to make it work, each in their own ineffective way, but it’s so muddied by money and expectations and poor communication. His scheme to get out (the fake mistress!) seemed actually pretty realistic—a plan that you’d hatch thinking, yes, this will totally work! It’s a win-win! And then it all falls apart because plans like that always fall apart. His frustration and his methodical, I’d say almost considerate, plan to leave Astrid gave his character a warmth that the movie didn’t bother with. The movie made him feel much more one-dimensional, and it felt like a waste of a fine actor.
Sorry, this turned into a book vs. movie analysis.
So anyway, the book. Would I recommend it? Sure, why not!