HOL­LY­WOOD EAST

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IN SEPTEM­BER, 1993, Kim Camp­bell served as Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter, the Toronto Blue Jays pre­pared to de­fend their World Se­ries ti­tle and The Joy Luck Club, a Chi­nese fa­mil­ial drama, hit the big screen. It would be a quar­ter cen­tury be­fore Hol­ly­wood pro­duced an­other non-pe­riod film fea­tur­ing an all-Asian cast. In the mean­time, Tin­sel­town’s been busy spot­light­ing sto­ries and strug­gles of toys that come to life, aliens, mon­sters, su­per­heroes and count­less Caribbean pi­rates. Asians have to wait their turn, right?

That turn ar­rives with Crazy Rich Asians, a rom-com based on the first tome in Kevin Kwan’s lit­er­ary tril­ogy, about a Chi­nese-Amer­i­can woman who learns of her boyfriend’s epic wealth while at a wed­ding in a mys­te­ri­ous Sin­ga­pore com­mu­nity. The all-Asian cast shrinks the sink­hole-sized rep­re­sen­ta­tion gap in Hol­ly­wood while draw­ing at­ten­tion to its his­tory of white­wash­ing Asian char­ac­ters, like Emma Stone’s half-Asian Hawai­ian woman in 2015’s Aloha and Scarlett Jo­hans­son’s turn as a Ja­panese char­ac­ter in 2017’s Ghost in the Shell.

“Most im­por­tant, it’s an en­tire movie about Asians with­out martial arts or stereo­typ­i­cal nerds,” Chi­nese-Amer­i­can jour­nal­ist Allyson Chiu ex­plained in The Wash­ing­ton Post. “When I viewed the trailer, I saw for the first time in my mem­ory a fe­male lead with whom I shared not only my ap­pear­ance but my ex­pe­ri­ences.”

Mean­while, it’s the fight­ing spirit of the film’s 55-year-old co-star Michelle Yeoh — the cel­e­brated Malaysian star of Crouch­ing Tiger, Hid­den Dragon and the most butt-kick­ing Bond girl ever in To­mor­row Never Dies, which helped land her a top Rot­ten Toma­toes’ rank­ing of “The 25 Best Ac­tion Heroin es of All Time ”– that mir­rors the stead­fast­ness she and fel­low Asians em­ploy to be rec­og­nized in this in­dus­try. And even Crazy Rich Asians faces con­tro­versy, from anger over the cast­ing of Henry Gold­ing due to his Eur asian( half-Malaysian, half-British) her­itage to the ab­sence of Sin­ga­pore’s many eth­nic mi­nori­ties. Still, it’s a start. Now we’ ve had two all-Asian Hol­ly­wood films in the last 25 years. Talk about crazy. — Mike Criso­lago

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