By Lucy Cotter, entertainment correspondent, and Amy Hitchcock, entertainment producer
Rom-com Crazy Rich Asians is the first Hollywood blockbuster in 25 years with an all-Asian cast, so expectations were high, higher even than its box office takings of $117m in its first 20 days – and the hype has followed it over the pond.
The film has proved polarising among the community it is supposed to represent.
Many have expressed disappointment that it presents a very specific and narrow portrayal of Asia – an east Asian, westernised version, accused of being more palatable to Hollywood audiences.
Dhanny Joshi, managing director of Big Deal Films, started his company to create roles for his clients who weren’t being offered enough opportunities.
He told Sky News he thinks Crazy Rich Asians is a step in the right direction but insists it must be just the beginning.
“I think that they’re going to find that they can’t just get away with doing Crazy Rich Asians and that’s it, box ticked, job done,” said Mr Joshi.
“I think there’s going to be larger appetite for more Asian culture, more Asian content. I think the demand is there.”
Jon M Chu’s romantic comedy, adapted from Kevin Kwan’s 2013 bestselling novel, is being heralded as a milestone, praised for challenging Hollywood norms where Asian characters are in the minority.
Actress Gemma Chan stars in the movie and agrees it’s an important film, which she is delighted is getting recognition: “It’s been 25 years since we last had a movie which centred around Asian American experience with The Joy Luck Club.
“It is a long time, a whole generation has grown up not seeing themselves in the mainstream.”
She also says she understands why people are concerned about its diversity, but insists it can only be a positive experience that will increase the number of stories being told.
Crazy Rich Asians is a story of decadence that follows a New York University professor who goes to Singapore to discover her boyfriend’s family own one of Asia’s largest fortunes.
Hot on the heels of Black Panther – the highest grossing superhero movie of all time in the US, which had a mainly black cast – the film is more evidence that the industry is finally responding to, and targeting, previously untapped audiences.
Actress and rapper Awkwafina, who also stars in the film, says there seems to a shift in perceptions.
“Attitudes before this, that minorities couldn’t lead a film that could be successful, that a woman couldn’t be an action hero in a successful film… that’s what’s being proven wrong and I think that you need to show them that a movie like this can exist and can do well.”
While expectations that a single film might have any real, calculable cultural impact may be unrealistic, if the audience reaction is anything to go by we should applaud what it stands for – as well as enjoying it for being a decent bit of fun and escapism.
:: Crazy Rich Asians is in UK cinemas on 14 September