Crazy Rich Asians: The Book vs. The Movie

August 28, 2018 6:00 pm by Vicki Abary
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Crazy Rich Asians Movie Poster. Photo courtesy of crazyrichasiansmovie.com / Warner Bros. Entertainment

The box-office-dominating movie Crazy Rich Asians is a very, very big deal. It’s based on author Kevin Kwan’s book with the same title. For one, not only does it break barriers by having its first all-Asian cast in a Hollywood movie in 25 years (since The Joy Luck Club). But it’s also a visual extravaganza that features an ultra-rich lifestyle. As well as everything that comes with it: huge mansions, out-of-this-world fashion, helicopters, first-class travel, big bling, and multiple location shoots in Singapore and Malaysia.

After meeting Kevin Kwan and listening to him talk about his books during his tours for China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems courtesy of Fully Booked, I know that the author took great care in researching material for his trilogy. From his fashion choices, descriptions of airplanes, jewelry, interiors, and even character traits and habits. All made the original Crazy Rich Asians such a juicy bestseller.  Of course film and book deviate sometimes. Because you just can’t fit that much material in two hours. And Crazy Rich Asians the movie does have several changes from the book. Want to know which ones? Read on to find out.

1. The Young Family’s Wealth

In the movie, the Young family shows off their wealth. In the book, the old money Young family are very discreet and careful not to show their wealth. Which is why in the opening scene they were drenched from the rain—Felicity Leong rather than Eleanor Young insisted they walk nine blocks from the Picadilly Tube Station to the hotel. Because taking a taxi would be a sin. In the book, Eleanor even uses a long-distance calling card to call Nicky in New York rather than a mobile phone and barters the rate of the private detective she hired to investigate Rachel.

2. Peppered with Colorful Language

The book is peppered with several Singaporean, Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkein, and even Singlish phrases. There are even footnotes of their meanings like “alamak,” or Malay slang used to express shock or exasperation like “oh, dear” or “oh my God”; “lah,” used at the end of a sentence; or “giam siap,” meaning stingy, like Felicity Leong. The movie doesn’t employ the use of this colorful language, perhaps to give it a more international spin.

crazy-rich-asians-taste-companyPhoto courtesy of crazyrichasiansmovie.com / Warner Bros. Entertainment

3. Rachel as Plus One in a Wedding

The movie version had Nick convincing his girlfriend Rachel to be his plus one for his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. In the book version, Nick convinces Rachel that aside from just a week in Singapore, they could visit all the other popular Asian cities in the region for the rest of the summer. Making it a more about a holiday for the couple. The movie version made it seem like it was all about attending the wedding. Although the movie was true to the book in the sense that Nick hadn’t mentioned Rachel to his family the whole time they were dating—and with good reason!

crazy-rich-asians-taste-companyPhoto courtesy of crazyrichasiansmovie.com / Warner Bros. Entertainment

4. Who is the Young Family?

In the book, Peik Lin Goh and her family have no idea of who the Young family. But in the movie they are all over them. When Peik Lin drops off Rachel at Tyersall Park, onscreen Nick invites her to the party whereas in the book, Peik Lin drives back home and informs her parents of the hidden property she just discovered. Because the Young family is so discreet, they even pay off society magazines to keep their names out of their glossy pages on purpose. With the exception of feeling-deprived Edison Cheng.

5. Several characters in the book are mostly absent from the movie.

These include Charlie Wu, Astrid Leong’s ex-boyfriend ad Nick’s father, Philip Young. Except for an after-credits scene with Astrid and Charlie, these characters are barely mentioned. Was this to pave the way for them to show up in the movie sequel?

crazy-rich-asians-taste-companyPhoto courtesy of crazyrichasiansmovie.com / Warner Bros. Entertainment

6. In the film, Rachel fast track meets most of Nick’s family at Su Yi’s party, even Eleanor.

In the book, though Rachel does meet Felicity, Nick’s Aunt Rosemary, his Ah Ma, and cousin Oliver T’sien, who does most of the explaining about the family, but Eleanor is away for the weekend. That funny scene where Nick’s cousin Eddie asks Rachel, “Chu are you?” never happens in the book. In the book, Nick’s Ah Ma even invites Nick and Rachel to stay at Tyersall Park.

crazy-rich-asians-taste-companyPhoto courtesy of crazyrichasiansmovie.com / Warner Bros. Entertainment

7. The girls went to Samsara Island for Araminta’s bachelorette, but the boys ended up in Macau.

And not a floating container ship in the middle of the ocean. The scenes in Samsara Island were more accurate except that Rachel ended up bonding with Sophie, Astrid’s cousin, rather than Astrid. And instead of taking Colin to some deserted island, Nick and four other friends ditched the high-energy container party for Australian desert instead.

There are so many more details to mention, and you can find some of these mentioned in Town and Country Philippines’ article here. For more, you’ll just have to watch the movie or read the book for yourself. No matter what the medium, Crazy Rich Asians is guaranteed to offer great entertainment!  

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This author at the press conference of Rich People Problems in 2017 hosted by Fully Booked with Kevin Kwan, author of Crazy Rich Asians

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