The “Crazy Rich Asians” Dilemma

When I watched Crazy Rich Asians last year, something happened at the beginning of the movie that made me pause. It didn’t quite make sense, but I realized if I thought too much about it, I wouldn’t enjoy the rest of the movie. So I just let it go (and proceeded to be entertained).

I remembered that issue recently, and I’m going to discuss it today. Spoilers for the first 5 minutes of the movie below.

In the first scene, an Asian family steps out of the rain into a fancy London hotel. They’re treated very poorly. I think it’s the mother who then makes a phone call, and minutes later, one of the hotel employees reveals that the woman and her company have purchased the hotel.

It’s a great moment, and hopefully I’m remembering it correctly. However, there’s a glaring issue with it: No matter how rich you are, you can’t buy things if they’re not available for sale.

To put this in perspective, if you own a house, imagine if someone walked into your house right now and declared, “I’m buying this house!” Sure, they could make you an offer, but the power is in your hands, not theirs. You decide if someone will or won’t buy your house, not them.

If you don’t believe me, feel free to give it a try. The next time you get bad service at a hotel, restaurant, etc, contact the owner and tell them you’re buying the establishment. Let’s see how they respond.

In Crazy Rich Asians, let’s say that the family made an offer to the hotel owner that was so high that he didn’t even consider countering–he simply accepted the offer. If that’s the case, the hotel owner is the clear winner in this situation, not the rain-drenched family.

Obviously this is a huge nitpick that doesn’t matter, and I’m glad Crazy Rich Asians wasn’t a 2-hour movie about real estate negotiations, paperwork, and taxes. But it’s also not an isolated case–there are other movies (Inception comes to mind) when a key moment is defined by a really rich person buying a company as if companies are items on the shelf at the grocery store that you can pick and choose as you will. Perhaps this is a trope that can be better served by a dose of realism.

What do you think? Have you ever noticed this in a movie? Does it bother you?

5 thoughts on “The “Crazy Rich Asians” Dilemma”

  1. As a very big fan of the show Billions I have found some of the scenarios far fetched. Things happen really, really fast which I suppose is just the way a story like this one stays dynamic and interesting.

    A more clinical approach to portraying how fictional rich folks acquire hotels or how larger than life characters control the state of the stock market would get very blah. The trickery behind writing for film or TV seems to include a fair amount of exaggeration, as well as the bending of time.

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  2. That makes a little more sense, although I don’t think Jamey’s nitpicking if the movie portrayed none of the back story. I also don’t think he’s questioning that Asians are investing in London; it’s the trope that with one quick phone call/on-the-spot, these types of purchases are made of previously unavailable things.

    My take is that this trope a quick way to establish just how rich a person is. Overall, I’m kind of “meh” about it–it’s better than saying he/she has X amount of money, but it effectively accomplishes the same thing. Not the worst trope, but it would be nice if a movie presented a more realistic alternative.

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  3. I do take notice of this sometimes; I’ve found myself doing it more so in books lately (Clive Cussler and Ted Bell I’m looking at you) – but also TV/movies – where the main character(s) is insanely wealthy so they can afford to travel anywhere, stay at the nicest hotels, explore with the fanciest gadgets, etc. I think it’s just that the “convenience of wealth” can sometimes lead to lazy storytelling (or in some cases as Brent pointed out, it allows the story to not get bogged down in unnecessary minutiae).

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  4. I think you’re much more likely to be able to buy a hotel (especially a fancy one), than somebody’s home.

    A fancy hotel is just part of a big business, and those things get bought and sold all the time.

    That said, if someone walked into my house and offered me many millions of dollars for it, you can bet we’d move out pretty quickly 😀

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    • Sure, I’m not debating that businesses get sold all the time. But it’s infinitely more complicated than making a single phone call.

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