WARNING: The following is regarding a very spoilery cameo from the film, “Crazy Rich Asians.”
After months of anticipation, “Crazy Rich Asians” is finally out, and is already doing insanely well. With a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and topping the domestic box office opening weekend at an estimated $25.2 million and $34 million over five days, it’s amazing to see these numbers for the first contemporary Hollywood film starring an all-Asian cast in a quarter of a century.
The cast has a number of remarkable actors that have effectively brought this adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s 2013 novel to life: From international legends like Michelle Yeoh, to contemporary stars like Constance Wu, to up-and-comers such as Awkwafina, and newcomers like Henry Golding. As much as I enjoyed their performances – as well as everyone else in the cast – the one person that made the film golden for its #GoldOpen to me was someone who had a very small role; and that person was Kina Grannis.
The indie singer-songwriter was singing a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” during the beautiful wedding scene in “Crazy Rich Asians.” Now while I remember her mentioning on social media at one point that she has a small role in the film, I thought she would be in a crowd shot or something. While yes, her cover of “Can’t Help Falling in Love” is on the film’s soundtrack, I assumed it would play in the background at some point, and that’s it. I did not expect to see her actually performing, and it was in that moment where the cultural impact of this film’s release really hit me.
Grannis is part of both the Asian American community and the multiracial community. She is Japanese through her mom’s side, and White through her dad’s. For a film that has had so much controversy surrounding the casting of Hapa actors – particularly the male lead, Golding – prior to its release, seeing her perform in that moment felt like both a way to shut down the naysayers and a way to celebrate the wide and diverse Asian American community. As a Hapa myself, it was incredibly meaningful to me to see her.
Her presence was, perhaps, also director Jon Chu’s way of acknowledging the Asian American figures who built their careers in entertainment via YouTube. Grannis is one of the first on the platform who’ve helped shape the way Asian Americans are viewed in the media, through her covers of other artists’ songs and her original music. To go from watching her on my phone, on my laptop, and in concert on two separate occasions, to seeing her on the big screen in such a pivotal film adds even more depth to her brief appearance.
By all means, I encourage people to go see “Crazy Rich Asians,” and in doing so, I hope you go support Grannis as well. Subscribe to her YouTube channel, support her on Patreon, and buy her music and covers. She is definitely one of the reasons why I want to see this film again during its theatrical run.
Photo by Justin Higuchi