So I finally watched the movie that everyone’s been talking about (i.e. those who have watched the movie and loved/hated it, and those who haven’t watched the movie but also have opinions on it).
I decided that before making any comments myself, I should watch it. In any case, I wanted to recognise the huge, calculated risk of fielding all Asians in a Hollywood movie by voting with my wallet. Even if it wasn’t perfectly authentic, it shows there is demand for more minority representation (from a Western perspective) and opens the doors for more of such creative efforts.
So, the generally good and realistic stuff:
- Tight script. Didn’t feel anything was verbally out of place
- Generally decent acting. From the trailers I felt the two leads were a bit stiff, but in the movie it didn’t seem so obvious
- Rachel’s mum (Tan Kheng Hua) was pleasant to watch – no overacting this time, unlike in local comedy shows
- Matriarch Eleanor Young (Michelle Yeoh) had the right mix of class and tradition while grappling with her own challenges as a daughter-in-law
- Peik Lin (Awkwafina). She rocks. Yes, she is a bit out of place in real life Singapore with her blaccent but everytime she appeared, she lit up the scene. My favourite part with her in it, is when she gets invited to the Young mansion
- I believe real uber rich people are capable of partying like what’s shown in the movie. And apart from the Young mansion that was so huge it could only be in Malaysia, not Singapore, I have seen other homes that are big and Versace-like in Singapore. Like it or not, it’s how some of the 0.1% live.
- We are reminded that rich people also have their own problems, like having insecure, cheating spouses – not that we wish ill on anyone, especially the lovely Astrid, but it reminds us that everyone is human
- Hot bods – Nick (Henry Golding) and Michael (Pierre Png)
- I’m no mahjong player, but apparently that was a strategic game which mahjong players would appreciate.
- It made me laugh and almost cry at the right moments. I liked how Rachel bounced back from adversity and showed she was above it all
- That RING. So precious… and to think it came from Michelle Yeoh
- By the end of the show, I really liked the two main characters and would like to see more of them (with Peik Lin, of course)
The weird stuff:
- We all know our grandparents speak more dialects while the younger generation speaks more Mandarin. So it was funny seeing Nick’s grandma speaking Mandarin (with a China accent, not a Singaporean one) while the younger generations spoke Cantonese
- The only Indians featuring in the movie are uncharacteristically fierce-looking Sikh guards who glance menacingly through the car windows. It provided for limited dramatic effect and felt a bit colonial. In real life, there are pretty wealthy Indians too and they would be invited to such parties in Singapore
- If Nick’s family really is old rich, they wouldn’t necessarily be so showy like the new rich – but then the show wouldn’t be as flamboyant
- There were way too many housemaids at Astrid’s place. I know it’s to show she’s from a very rich family, but it got me thinking, wow, how did they get so many permits from the Ministry of Manpower? It’s not like they have so many kids!
- Hot bod aside, Michael’s posh accent sounded stilted and distracted me. He could have stuck to his Singaporean accent
- Wye Mun Goh (Ken Jeong) is out of place here and I didn’t appreciate his cheap shot making fun of Chinese people’s accents
- I know I’m really harping on accents here… but just because you studied at a US or UK university doesn’t mean you only speak with a US or UK accent, which some characters did (I will stand corrected as I didn’t read the book and maybe some characters did spend a longer time abroad). Singaporeans who were raised in Singapore, studied abroad in their later years before returning home usually still speak with a Singaporean accent – perhaps with a twinge of the accent of the country they studied in. Having said that, I know other accents sound nicer and this movie has to appeal to an international audience. So I’ll hold my peace.
But that’s really nitpicking. I enjoyed the movie very much, it never had a dull moment and I would watch it again. And again.
No show will be perfect and given what it stands for, we should give it our support so that there will be more movies like this. That will attract more talent from minority groups and maybe that will make future projects truly more representative.