Crazy Rich Asians was published back in 2013, and it took five years to bring Kevin Kwan's book to life on the big screen. This week, fans will get their first taste of the lives led by those in Singapore's high society. Fans of the book will also get to meet the onscreen Rachel Chu, a Chinese American professor who doesn't know exactly what she's signed up for when she agrees to travel overseas with her boyfriend Nick Young.
Crazy Rich Asians the movie is an interesting case. In many instances the movie tries really hard to stick the landing and give us all of the big moments from the book. However, there are also plenty of changes that fans of Kevin Kwan's book will most certainly notice, as well. While some of the minor details that were exchanged aren't mentioned in this piece, I did strive to pull out the biggest, most interesting changes the movie ultimately decided to make from the source material. As always, if there's anything worth noting you feel I missed, please let us know in the comments, below.
Now, we're about to jump into Crazy Rich Asians spoiler territory. If you haven't seen the movie yet, please move on to one of our other wonderful articles!
Out of necessity, some details were changed. A scene taking place in 1986 in the book is set in 1995 at the beginning of the movie and other reminiscing, like Nick hanging out with Colin during their childhood, is cut for time. This is done to effectively streamline the plot and keep its focus in the present day, but it does mean we miss some of the wonderful looks at Singapore's past that are present in the book.
We get to see Rachel Chu teaching at university. Rachel is very open that she is an economics professor in the book, but in the movie her ideas about game theory are a focal point. In fact, the movie adds a telling scene between Rachel and Eleanor expanding her knowledge of game theory through a game of Mahjong later on.
Rachel realizes very early on that Nick is "crazy rich" in the movie. In fact, once they are on the plane with the nice suite and Nick explains that his family is in real estate and gets high-end airline tickets as a perk, she calls him out for not being open with her about his background. This honestly works better for me than in the book, with Rachel seemingly clueless for a while when there are displays of wealth everywhere.
The hawker centers are downplayed. There is a whole scene where Colin, Araminta, Nick and Rachel bond over food, which is really nice. But the fact that no one can agree on which place has the best food is a really funny taste of life in Singapore that comes up in Kwan's book. The argument over hawker centers also closes out the book in a nice, round way when Rachel's mom visits, but the movie plays out differently at the end.
Astrid's split with her husband is very different. In the movie, she's hiding jewelry and shoes not dresses, and when she finds out about Michael's affair, we don't get the entire subplot where she meets up with her childhood sweetheart to get to the bottom of his infidelity. Instead, Michael wanting to trick Astrid so she leaves him is treated like a legitimate affair in the movie. Charlie Wu only appears in a post-credits scene. Maybe we'll see more in a sequel?
The Goh family definitely knows who Nick Young is in the movie. In the book, there's a difference between the new money and the old money, and people like Peik Lin's family, who come from new money, are not aware of the Young family and their wealth. In the movie, he's basically a celebrity, and Peik Lin even crashes a party to see his grandmother's house.
There's a whole subplot in the movie where Cousin Oliver and Peik Lin bond. More Peik Lin is never a bad thing in this movie, and now I'm just waiting for Superstore to sign Awkwafina for a guest stint so that she and Nico Santos can verbally spar some more onscreen.
Nick Young is expected to return to Singapore to work with his father. Although his father hangs out in Australia in the books and is not even introduced in the movie, Nick is expected to eventually quit his job in New York and return to work in the family business. This is an added wrinkle, because it is not something he has mentioned to Rachel in the movie during the entirety of their relationship.
At the bachelor party, Nick, Colin and others do not escape the crazy party boat via helicopter in order to fly to Australia for flat whites. This is kind of a shame, because that scene is rather comical in the books. There is a scene where they are shown getting off the boat and relaxing, however, and that's when Nick reveals his true feelings for Rachel, as well as the fact that he would like to propose.
Amanda Ling is introduced at Araminta's bachelorette party and it is Astrid who helps Rachel clean up the gross fish mess. Rachel is also the person who decides that she needs to stand up to the mean girls at the party by not freaking out about the fish, which gives her some additional agency. She ends up burying the fish in the sand.
There's a whole scene where Rachel gets to spend more time with Nick's family. They make dumplings in the scene, and Rachel learns more about Eleanor and Ah Ma's relationship. It's also how she learns that Eleanor basically gave up raising her son so that he would become the favorite grandkid. However, Eleanor still chooses that scene to make sure Rachel knows she is not welcome, telling her, "You will never be enough."
The wedding scene plays out a little differently. Oliver helps Rachel to find her dress last minute. Rachel is not welcome to sit with Eleanor and her friends, but she makes friends with a princess instead. We don't get to see the entire wedding transition on a boat to a private space for the reception and the molecular gastronomy dinner is not commented on, as happens in the book. But the $40 million wedding is certainly remarked upon and looks "crazy" spectacular.
Although a private investigator is mentioned in an early scene, we never see Eleanor visit one. Thus, when she pulls out the envelope containing Rachel's history at the wedding, it's a rather huge shock. It's not how it happens in the book, either. In Kevin Kwan's story, Nick takes Rachel away from his family and Eleanor follows them to a vacation home to reveal what she has learned.
Nick Young proposes to Rachel Chu on an airplane. The scene is straight rom-com and it's not in the book at all. Rachel's mom is there to witness the proposal. In the book she has also traveled to Singapore and does witness Nick and Rachel's reunion; it just plays out at a bar and not on a plane. Also, unlike the Crazy Rich Asians book, there's less of a backstory regarding why Rachel's mother left China and Rachel doesn't want to immediately go in search of her father.
Nick has also planned a lavish engagement party for Rachel that nearly everyone we've met in the movie attends. Eleanor also attends, giving the audience the understanding that she has made peace with her son's decision (or at least thrown up a white flag for now), even if she remains unconvinced Rachel is a good fit. The party is on a rooftop in Singapore, and it pretty much looks amazing, capping off the movie with a fun and funny scene.