Page & Screen: Crazy Rich Asians

A semi-regular, ongoing series of posts where I discuss movie adaptations of books, because I love books and I love movies

If I had a nickel for every time I read a book and thought, “This would make a much better movie” …Well, I’d maybe have 20 cents. My husband would say this is because I’m a book snob. But I can’t help it if most of the books I’ve read are so totally engrossing that I want to spend more than two hours with the story.

Crazy Rich Asians left me feeling the opposite. The book is… not great. There was a lot about it that I liked— the descriptions of Singapore’s food culture, the quirky characters, (most of) the twists and turns— but a lot that didn’t quite work. The book was probably 200 pages too long thanks to numerous subplots that fizzled and went nowhere. Too much of the story feels like set up for a sequel rather than part of the story (there are actually two; I haven’t read them yet).

But once you cut away the fat, there are the bones of a wonderful romantic comedy here. The movie is the perfect expression of this. Crazy Rich Asians has many of your typical rom-com tropes— a fish-out-of-water protagonist, an attractive and understanding boyfriend, his disapproving mother— but with a specificity that sets it apart. This is a movie viewers will be familiar with, and yet, it feels wonderfully fresh.

Crazy Rich Asians translates to the screen so easily, that I wouldn’t be surprised if author Keven Kwan was really angling for a movie deal more than a book one.  It’s hard to imagine the kind of wealth being talked about here (unless you regularly brush shoulders with it, which I don’t). The screen is the perfect canvas for the over-the-top opulence described: fashion, jewels, exotic locations, parties to rival Jay Gatsby’s. It all translates into wonderful escapist fare.

I’ve watched this movie twice in theatres, but doubt that I’ll ever pick up the book again. In saying that, I wouldn’t put anyone off reading it themselves. It’s fun, and you’ll likely breeze through it, despite its somewhat bloated length. Kwan can certainly paint a picture, I’ll give him that. It’s just not always the one that reader’s will get the most from.

Book: Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan (544 pages)

Movie: Crazy Rich Asians (2h 1 min)

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