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'Crazy Rich Asians' plays well to hometown crowd in Singapore

Over the top but a lot of fun: That was the verdict for many Singaporean moviegoers after watching the Holly...

Posted: Aug 22, 2018 9:52 AM
Updated: Aug 22, 2018 9:52 AM

Over the top but a lot of fun: That was the verdict for many Singaporean moviegoers after watching the Hollywood blockbuster "Crazy Rich Asians," which was shot and set almost entirely in Singapore.

The romantic comedy, where the scion of a fabulously wealthy Singapore family brings home his not-so-rich Chinese-American economics professor girlfriend to attend his best friend's wedding and meet his disapproving parents, opened here Tuesday to packed audiences.

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For the most part, those in the crowd loved what they saw. People laughed knowingly at the depiction of shrill Chinese mainlanders and their over-the-top, nouveau riche ways, and groaned at the familiar sight of overbearing parents meddling in their children's love life.

"I was curious at how Asians would be portrayed through the Hollywood lens,'' said Wendy Chen, 28, who came to see the highly anticipated film with her fiancee. "The sense of duty towards the family, the tacky Chinese, all that exists," she said. "Still, the movie did not depict our culture in all its depth."

The movie is based on the best-selling novel by Singapore-born author Kevin Kwan. Insiders say the ultra-exclusive world featured in both book and movie is as real as the Lion City's stunning scenery.

Some locals say they can identify the real-life inspirations for the film's main protagonists.

"This kind of Singaporean elite exists, yes, but hardly as flashy," said businesswoman Eunice Lam, 35. "Singaporeans play down their wealth."

Ranked one of the world's richest countries, Singapore is believed to have the world's fastest growing number of billionaires.

Yet while many of Asia's super rich have made the city-state their home, it is not uncommon to spot tycoons and captains of industry catching the bus or queuing for a $3.50 plate of chicken rice.

Some viewers worried the movie ignored the reality of everyday life on the ground. "Not everyone is rich here, a lot of people live normal lives," said retiree Irene Ee, 65. "Now everyone will think we have so much money, we should pay for everyone else's needs."

With Wednesday a public holiday here, cinema owners decided to bring forward opening night to capitalize on the unprecedented buzz surrounding the film.

As some members of the all-Asian cast were still walking the red carpet for the official premiere at the island's iconic Capitol Theatre, they had to jostle with the throngs streaming out of special preview screenings who had already witnessed heroine Rachel Chu clash with the imposing mother of her on-screen boyfriend.

The local hype surrounding the opening of "Crazy Rich Asians" has been hard to escape. It has dominated social media.

Produced with the assistance of the Singapore Film Commission and the Singapore Tourism Board, state-owned media channels have been promoting the film relentlessly.

Outdoor screens along the famous main Orchard Road shopping district have the movie's trailer on an endless loop. Never has Singapore starred in a Hollywood movie like this.

No wonder then that moviegoers lining up to collect their tickets were so excited.

"I haven't read the book, I was sucked in by all the hoopla," said medical student Candice Leong.

The two-hour film's US debut exceeded box-office expectations. It led the weekend box office, raking in $35.3 million in its first five days, well above the studio's $18 million estimate.

For Singapore, it's the second time this year that the Little Red Dot, as locals refer to their tiny island-nation, has found itself the center of world attention.

It spent around $20 million to host the June summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

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