Fair to say that the characters in Crazy Rich Asians wouldn’t read a frugal blog.
Also fair to wonder why someone who preaches the delights of simple living (ie me) was gagging to see a film that revels in spending like it’s going out of style.
But I’m a sucker for a rom com, and Crazy Rich Asians is fab.
It’s a frothy, fun, ridiculously OTT fantasy, with some brilliant supporting characters and laugh-out-loud lines. I reckon it also has some pretty useful lessons about money, in a setting driven by the stuff.
Crazy Rich Asians – the film
The plot breathes new life into the standard Cinderella scenario. An Asian American academic, Rachel, has been going out with her boyfriend, Nick, for over a year. He suggests taking her back to Singapore, so she can meet his family and come to a wedding where he’s best man.
Turns out his family is not just rich, but crazy rich. Nick’s not just Singapore’s most eligible bachelor, but also expected to take on the sprawling family business.
Rachel, meanwhile, has to face down his frosty mother, mad family and resentful friends, suspicious of an impecunious outsider who is (shock horror) the daughter of a single mother. Meanwhile the insane wealth is a great excuse for an explosion of glitzy clothes, OTT houses and amazing parties. Oh, and the sound track is brilliant too, with Chinese versions of Material Girl, Money (That’s What I Want) and Coldplay’s Yellow plus a touching version of Can’t Help Falling In Love With You.
Constance Wu (Rachel) is fine as the lead, and better when she gets feisty. The film doesn’t do much more with Nick than establish he’s terribly nice to his mother/girlfriend/best friend/kids/old ladies, but he does take his top off a lot. It’s the supporting characters that make it, including Awkwafina as the zany College room mate and her madder rich kitsch family, Michelle Yeoh as the glacial mother giving good evil and Gemma Chan as a cousin trying to shore up a disintegrating marriage.
8 money lessons from Crazy Rich Asians
So what did Crazy Rich Asians teach me about money?
1. Frugal, frugal, frugal
- Frugality might be foreign to Nick’s family and friends, but full marks to Rachel. She shops at a thrift store for an outfit to meet Nick’s family and takes Tupperware tubs of food for the flight, even if she doesn’t need either in the end. Bonus points for borrowing clothes too.
2. Fab food for less
- Food doesn’t have to cost a fortune to taste fabulous. Nick, his friend Colin and Colin’s girlfriend Araminta, all from immensely wealthy families, whisked Rachel straight off the plane to an amazing street food market.
3. Value time together
- Family activities that really brought the characters together didn’t involve spending a ton of money: making dumplings and playing mahjong. I’m keen to try both.
4. Everyone loves a freebie
- Even people with more money than sense like free stuff, as shown by the riot in the all-paid shopping trip during the hen weekend.
5. Discuss cash with your other half
- Talking honestly about money is crucial for a good relationship. Nick and Rachel could have avoided a lot of grief if Nick had ‘fessed up about his family’s filthy lucre, and its implications for their future together. Wouldn’t have made anywhere near as a good a movie, mind. Hiding purchases from her husband doesn’t seem to work so well for Nick’s cousin Astrid either.
6. Keep your own independence
- Money brings choices for Rachel. She may not come from a ridiculously wealthy background, but she has a successful career. This Cinderella could chuck the handsome prince, return to New York and still be just fine, thank you very much. I reckon we all need to scrape together a freedom fund, with enough savings to walk away from a bad relationship, move to a new home or quit a job that isn’t working.
7. Money doesn’t buy happiness
- Most importantly, money doesn’t buy happiness. Nick’s family is riven with jealousies, power struggles and misery (although Oliver, the ‘rainbow sheep’ of the family, seems to be having a fine time). Nick himself has chosen to move to another country and live without the trappings of wealth. When Rachel says “I wouldn’t want to marry into your family”, reckon most of the audience were nodding their heads and thinking “damn right”. Rachel and her mother seem to have a much happier, more supportive relationship.
8. Start saving!
- I need to start saving for a trip to Singapore. I can do without the multi-million pound earrings, but I’d still love to travel.
Related post: What does being rich mean to you?
I asked my daughter what she learnt from the film. She said: “It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or have a lot of stuff, it’s what’s inside that matters”, which seems like a great lesson. Mind you, she also said another lesson was: “You shouldn’t always listen to your mother”. Pah.
Related post: 10 lessons I’d like to teach my daughter about money
So whether you love rom coms, or just like fun films: go see Crazy Rich Asians.
I’m not going to beat the drum about Asian representation in cinema, or strong female characters, although the film delivers on both.
Put it this way, as a frugal blogger I was willing to pay for cinema tickets AND a booking fee AND parking, rather than waiting for this film to appear on telly for free. But hope is not lost. I did use my NUS card to get a student ticket and cashed in a voucher for free popcorn…
Now over to you: have you seen Crazy Rich Asians? Learn anything about mega-wealth, or just leave you lusting for stuff you can’t have? Any interest or not your cup of tea? Do share in the comments, I’d love to hear.
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