The Hopes of an Entire Race Rests on One Film – Crazy Rich Asians Image

Look, I’m not overstating things when I say that the hope of an entire race of people rests upon a single move. We’re talking Jon M. Chu’s Crazy Rich Asians. I’m writing this without having seen the film and do I really have to tell you I’m Asian-American as well?

Crazy Rich Asians is an important film for this significant minority group in America. The “internet” calls it the Asian Black Panther. Marvel’s Black Panther proved that American audiences overwhelming embraced a predominantly African-American cast and African-American filmmakers with their praise and pocketbook. I want to think the big studios learned that if you have a good story and a competent and passionate filmmaker, that no matter the color of the cast and crew there is an audience who will give you large sums of cash to see that film. Greed knows no color.

In contrast, Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club was the last time a major studio (Disney/Hollywood Picture) put its faith in an Asian-American filmmaker (Wayne Wang) and an Asian-American cast (Ming-Na Wen, Tamlyn Tomita, Lauren Tom, and Rosalind Chao). That was only twenty-five years ago.

“…no matter the color of the cast and crew there is an audience who will give you large sums of cash. Greed knows no color.”

Why twenty-five years? I’m not that guy who blames everything on institutional racism. While it did have its role, one also has to look at the lack of Asian-American source material that could appeal to a broad audience and a generation of Asians that brought honor to their families as doctors, lawyers, and engineers, while expressly forbidden by their parent from pursuing the arts. My Asian brothers and sisters, you know its true.

Twenty-five years later, Asians in America were very different. There’s more of us now numbers-wise, we’re coming from more Asian countries and second and third generation Asian-Americans are getting into the arts. Consider this former banker casting all aside and getting into the high paying field of film criticism. The ancestors would be proud (removing tongue from cheek).

I’m hitting this Asian vs. Asian-American thing pretty hard because it’s an important distinction to make. From the studio standpoint, they were more willing to hire actors and directors with proven track records overseas, than risk their precious films with homegrown talent.

So now’s the time. There is a great deal of pressure for Crazy Rich Asians to succeed and it’s not lost on everyone associated with the film. Failure can set Asian-American filmmaking back another two-and-a-half decade. Don’t think I’m serious. Consider television show All-American Girl starring Margaret Cho and BD Wong. It only too 20 years for the networks to forget All-American Girl and give Fresh Off the Boat a chance.

“…hitting this Asian-American thing pretty hard because it’s an important distinction…”

Let’s be practical for the moment. Asian Black Panther is putting unfair pressure on this film. Black Panther is a Marvel superhero film with a $200 million budget. It also appeals to a broad audience and joins Iron Man and Captain America as part of a proven successful universe.

Crazy Rich Asians must cross a few insurmountable obstacles to find success. First, while based on Kevin Kwan’s best-selling novel of the same name, Americans are not known as a “reading” culture. Next, it’s production budget is $30 million. Fine for a superhero film, but Crazy Rich Asians is a romantic comedy. In today’s business model, the film probably has to hit $40 to $50 million in its opening weekend and $100 million total to be declared a success. Lastly, the casts boast no A-List star or hot lead actors and let’s face it the cast is all Asian. Hopefully, Black Panther’s success makes this last point a moot one.

Help us Crazy Rich Asians. You’re our only hope. Let’s end by considering the possible outcomes by examining quality and box office. Outcome 1. Jon M. Chu’s film is good, and it makes a lot of money. Clearly the best option. The studio makes money, and they will want to repeat that success and make more films with Asian-Americans.

“…a big thanks to the white readers of Film Threat for…seeing an important Rom-Com…”

Outcome 2. The film is bad, but it’s profitable. Cheap victory, but I’ll take it. The downside is studios will be on the hunt for the Asian-Spielberg and the Asian-Ron-Howard. We don’t look good with red hair. A victory none-the-less.

Outcome 3. The film is good, but it underperforms at the box office. Here we learn that American has not learned anything in the past two years and we’ll see you in another twenty-five years.

Outcome 4. The film is bad, and it fails at the box office. It is here that I refrain from any smart remarks to keep my job.

Let’s get sappy. Kudos to Warner Brothers for the opportunity. Unlike, All-American Girl, Chu was able to make the film he wanted to make with very little studio interference. Special thanks to Jon M. Chu and Adele Lim for taking the risk knowing the importance of this one film. And a big thanks to the white readers of Film Threat for stepping away from your geek and horror films and seeing an important Rom-Com…several times…for the sake of world peace.

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  1. Vitt says:

    Fast tracking to outcome 1…. also why does no one mention 2002’s Better Luck Tomorrow.

    • Chris Gore says:

      Love Better Luck Tomorrow. Not mentioned because it was an indie film that got big studio distribution. Its production budget was $250,000 compared to the $30 million CRA got from Warner Brothers.

      • Vitt says:

        Ah… kinda like an unwanted indie step child. I may be too emotionally tied to BLT. I think I just want some acknowledgement of it’s existence. Glad to hear that the studios gave CRA creators free reign.

        On an related issue – less studio involvement the better. It feels like the creatives who couldn’t cut it became studio heads – and they in turn get a chance to muck with the film soup. I can not think of an instance where I heard… “Oh man I am so glad the studio got involved. The film would have been crap without the changes they demanded.”

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