Tag: Awkwafina

Crazy Rich Asians

craCinderella meets Singapore tourism promotional video in this modern fairytale of love and family fallouts. Employing every cliched Hollywood trick in the book, Crazy Rich Asians is a tale that taps into implausible but archetypal characters and familiar narrative arcs … it’s wonderfully vibrant and wafer thin.

Rachel (Rachel Chu) and Nick (Henry Golding) are a young New York couple in love, but when she is taken to meet his family in Singapore things go a little pear-shaped.  It turns out Nick’s family are obscenely wealthy; the type of gratuitous showy wealth that has you despairing for humanity. Soon after hitting Changi Airport’s tarmac, the supporting cast of cliches begin to roll out—the flamboyant gay cousin (comic relief: check); the catty ex-girlfriend (minor antagonist: check); the disapproving future mother-in-law (major antagonist: check); the list goes on. Rachel must negotiate a minefield of disapproving looks and back-handed comments as she is reluctantly dragged around the many extravagant events, parties, and occasions that highlight Singapore’s opulence. One does wonder if the Singapore Tourism Board slipped Director Jon M. Chu a fiver to show off the city’s lights and glamour.

Plot-wise there is nothing fresh here, but it is visually sumptuous and exudes plenty of feel-good warmth. The pairing of an entirely Asian cast with familiar Hollywood tropes is a master-stroke that will no doubt do wonders at the international box office. However, even-though the east-meets-west sensibilities might herald ethnic diversity, there is an unsavoury whiff of cultural imperialism at play here; the long-arm of western consumerism is laid bare like a Coke bottle in the Sahara, although here it’s an Aston Martin in Singapore.

But lest I lose myself in murky cultural waters and lose sight of the obvious fantasy, Crazy Rich Asians seamlessly weaves its many cliches into a dazzling rom-com.  Perhaps a tad light on the “com”, but still a sensory light-show that will melt many hearts … and no doubt do Singapore tourism some big favours as well.

See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.

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Ocean’s 8

oceans 20386.dngIt’s been over a decade since the Ocean’s trilogy planted the then “it” men George Clooney and Brad Pitt firmly within the heist genre. Now director Steven Soderbergh has handed the reigns over to Gary Ross and instead of Clooney and Pitt, we have the “it” chicks Bullock and Blanchett to head up an all-female crew of eight; including Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Rihanna, Awkwafina, Sarah Paulson, and the delightful Anne Hathaway.

For fear of spoilers I won’t dive too deep into the plot details—suffice to say that Ocean’s 8 does have its twists and turns, but on the whole plays it fairly safe.  Fresh out of jail Debbie (Sandra Bullock) seeks revenge on the man who sent her there in the first place.  As they say, revenge is a dish best served cold and five years in the clink has given her plenty of thinking-time to come up with a really cold one.  It is a plan that involves an elaborate heist to rob the multi-million-dollar Cartier diamond necklace right from under the nose of Daphne Kluger (Anne Hathaway) at New York’s glitzy Met Gala ball.

Aside from a few head-scratching moments, which are eventually explained by the obligatory “how it was all done” flashback, the plot is fairly water-tight and explained with such mechanical precision that there is little time left to flesh out its many characters. The end result is a soulless film that attempts to inject some warmth with a few chuckles and an emotive soundtrack.

But the biggest disappointment is that it is far too tentative in its feminist agenda. More should’ve been made of eight kick-ass women who’re played by some of Hollywood’s heaviest hitters. One might argue that the very nature of women occupying roles traditionally reserved for men—and doing so without shouting to the rafters—goes some way to normalise such roles. Yes, a good thing, but here it feels like the potato becomes too hot to handle for its male director.  Sure Ross does an acceptable job of swinging a camera kinetically around a set; he gets the job done, but he doesn’t come close to tapping into the charisma of his ensemble cast.  Ultimately, Ocean’s 8 is clinical, mildly entertaining and carries you along—but could’ve been so much more.
 

See my reviews for the NZ Herald and NZME here.